Your Life Is Your Story. Write Well. Edit Often.

20 Inspirational Cancer Quotes For Survivors, Fighters – Inspirational Quotes Ideas

Well, we surely are editing our life’s stories at present. Cancer has reared its dreaded head and we are in the first stages of finding out how Ian’s life story is being edited.

Ian has just spent 3 days in the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre emergency room, having gone in with severe bloody diarrhea, had a colonoscopy and CT scan and is now home. The medical team found a rectal tumour which is the source of the bleeding. That means cancer, of course, but we are happy to hear that it is localized and not expected to metastasize elsewhere. We are now awaiting a consultation with a surgical oncologist to see where to proceed from here. Thank God, he is not in any pain, just really exhausted. We’re sure the surgeon will have difficulty in deciding whether or not to operate since Ian is 85 and in poor health otherwise, so it might not be possible. Time will tell. Prayers are being sent up!

Gayle is anxiously trying to master the art of injecting Ian twice a day with an anti-coagulant that is necessary to prevent a stroke, since he is highly susceptible to them and has been on Warfarin for several years. That has been discontinued and a twice-a-day injectable anti-coagulant that is easier to counter-act if necessary has been prescribed. To say the least, nursing was never a career choice for Gayle, but she seems to have been forced into a non-professional form of it now and earlier in the care of her late husband. Again, prayers are being sent up for guidance, patience and endurance.

Present circumstances have sent us in search of some inspiration and these quotes have helped.

Though no longer writing, when he can stay awake and alert, Ian takes great pleasure in reading one of his published books. Right now he is concentrating on our children’s book, Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie, chuckling from time to time and marveling that he ever managed to write it. The latest chuckle came when he pointed out a section where he had brought in a Scottish reflection to his fictional story. It reminded Gayle how, as the past editor of a thematic magazine, her life often seemed to reflect whatever theme was being worked on at the moment. Quoted below is the passage Ian read aloud:

“Some months later, the week after Jake’s twelfth birthday, another problem appeared. And Jake was sure a certain kid was the cause of everything getting all messed up again. As far as Jake was concerned, he didn’t want to go through any more troubles. But that little kid appeared at his door and sure screwed things up for Jake in a BIG way!

“Now Jake’s Grandpa was an old Scotsman who loved the poetry of the even-older Scotsman, named Robert Burns. Even Dad had started quoting some old sayings of Burns’, so it wasn’t surprising that a phrase from Burns’ poem “To a Mouse” came into Jake’s mind. He had often heard both Grandpa and Dad say something like, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”– meaning that you can make really good plans but they can often go wrong. However it was stated, Jake thought, the saying must apply to 12-year-old boys too, for things certainly did go wrong for Jake—well, for a little while anyway.”

 

We rejoice that Ian has these writings to fall back on. They help to jog his failing memory and keep his spirits up. It’s good to always look for the silver lining in the inevitable clouds. Peace be with us all.

Eight-year-old Gayle’s First Story: The New Puppy

Eight-year-old Gayle’s First Story: The New Puppy

Gayle has intended to post this story in the past but couldn’t readily find where she had squirreled it away in her numerous storage tubs of memorabilia. Now, after a hiatus of 67 years, it is finally getting published on this blog! As far as she knows this was her first attempt to write down a story and she is pretty proud of her first efforts, despite the extremely slanted lines, childish but rather cute errors in grammar and spelling, yellowed cellophane tape “binding” and less-than-awesome artistry. Even then, however, she made a good attempt at sharing an engaging autobiographical story and finding a suitable, descriptive opening and closing.

The story was written in 1950, probably around November since Gayle would have turned eight on the 11th (and Doreen and Barbara would have been six and five until the next spring) and hunting season for ducks would have been in full swing. The setting is a house on Central Avenue in the small town of New Rockford, North Dakota.

The New Puppy CoverThe New Puppy Page 1The New Puppy Page 2 1The New Puppy Page 3 1The New Puppy Page 4The New Puppy Page 5

Note that Lady has a docked tail and Spotie’s tail is normal. A lot of waterfowl hunting dogs at that time had their tails docked to prevent wagging tails giving away the hunter’s hideouts in the reeds to birds as they approached a wetland site. Odd that Spotie has no spots and that the three girls look more like dressmaker’s forms than little girls! The spelling of the puppy’s name is also unique. “Spotty” or even “Spottie” would probably have been better choices.

But for the existence of this little story, the incident of the new puppy would probably have been lost as their parents have been dead for years and Gayle’s younger sisters, who were 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 at the time, have little recollection of what happened. None of the three can remember what eventually happened to the new puppy either. Only Gayle (who was a “grown-up” eight year old at the time) remembers that they later discovered that Spotie was deaf. He only reacted to touch and not to sound.

Spotie’s mother Lady was the same age as Gayle, so eight years of age when she gave birth to Spotie, who was her only offspring. Gayle also recalls that Lady had been hit by a car some months before Spotie’s birth, though she hadn’t seemed to be injured. Mom Mildred and Dad George had later surmised that the hearing of the puppy fetus had not developed properly as a result of the car accident. We know that Spotie did not grow to maturity and Gayle has a vague recollection that she was hit by a car and killed, probably in her first year of life. (The trauma of that death most likely contributed to the girls’ poor memories.) No photos of Spotie seem to have been taken, surprising when recalling how many photos and 60-mm films their daddy took over the years. There are numerous photos of Lady, however, and Gayle is sharing one of those, as well as photos of the girls from around 1950.

The three girls were very close in age. Gayle was 16 months older than Doreen who was a year and three days older than Barbara. Lady and Spotie were American Water Spaniels, a breed begun in Wisconsin in the early 1800s who were bred as hunting dogs. George Moore, their daddy, was an avid hunter who brought home many wild fowl and deer over the years. The Moores’ freezer was always full of wild duck, wild goose, partidge, prairie chicken, grouse, pheasant and lots of venison. They lived in central North Dakota, in the Central Flyway, a haven for hunters of migratory waterfowl. The surrounding prairies were also teeming with other game birds, Whitetail deer and elk.
Gayle & Lady-1948
Although no photo of the new puppy exists, Gayle has chosen the above photo from winter 1948/49 of Lady, the mother water spaniel, and herself. About a year and a half later she wrote the story about Lady’s new puppy.

Water Spaniel puppy

Because of his name, the new puppy “Spotie” was obviously spotted, as was Lady. Included herewith is a closeup of a vintage online photo of an American water spaniel puppy.

In the photo below the three little Moore girls pose on their parents’ bed in their “clown pajamas” for what became the Moore family’s Christmas card of 1949. They are from left to right, Barbara Ann, 4; Doreen Joyce, 5; and Gayle Irene, 7 .

Moore Girls in Clown pjs-1949The only photo from 1950 that Gayle could find is the below shot of Gayle reading the “funny papers” to Doreen, who would have just started school and probably wasn’t yet able to read them for herself.

Gayle reading to Doreen-1950

 

Previewing “Twitterpated” As We Celebrate Our Wedding Anniversary

Previewing “Twitterpated” As We Celebrate Our Wedding Anniversary

We’ve just closed a nostalgic celebration of our 13th wedding anniversary with a return to the site where we met in June 2003 at Grace Café on north Henderson Highway in Winnipeg. Though we were seniors then, we are even “more senior” today and Ian is no where near as spry nor talkative as he used to be. In fact, due to mild cognitive impairment, he has forgotten so much of our story that we are super grateful that he shared his memories in writing while he still could. Most of his next memoir, Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story was written by 2007, but it hasn’t yet been published. Gayle is presently editing the memoir (and embellishing it here and there as she finds gaps and inconsistencies). She is plugging along as fast as her care giving duties permit. In the meantime, she read parts of the memoir’s last chapter to Ian this afternoon before we drove north to have a lovely meal at our “meeting place.”

Perhaps readers of this blog will enjoy a preview of selected excerpts from  Came to Canada, Eh?‘s chapter entitled “Twitterpated.”

To set the scene, Ian who was widowed in 2002, has decided at age 70 not to sit around and mope but to enjoy life and pursue the dating scene again after almost a 50-year hiatus. He joins a senior’s centre and dances up a storm, dates a few women he has met there and finally has a few unsatisfying encounters through an online dating organization. Then things change when Gayle enters into his life.

Then I thought I’d go for broke and sent a smile to a much younger widow (age 60) who was “religious,” had a professional position and was interested in music, reading, writing, travel, good wine, fine dining, history, conversation, and a lot of other things that interested me. We exchanged a few e-mails, thought we’d be quite compatible and then arranged to meet at a place she suggested. I had originally thought her name was Irene, as that was the handle she used on Lavalife. Just before we were to meet she disclosed that “Irene” was her middle name and that she really was called “Gayle.” While I was sitting in Grace Café, a Christian coffee house at the north part of Henderson Highway, I was kidding around with one of the waitresses. I knew right away when “my Gayle” walked in, even though I’d never seen a photo of her. Just as if this were a casual encounter, Gayle joined in on the chit-chat with the waitress and I, just as casually, invited her to join me.

I told Gayle I’d never been in this coffee house before and asked if she had a recommendation for something good that I could order. She replied, “Why don’t you try a chia tea latte?” (I think I could have drunk anything this very good-looking woman suggested and found it delicious!)

During our ensuing non-stop conversation, I found out that she was the editor of a Christian women’s magazine. (Hey, every writer needs his own editor, doesn’t he?) She seemed intrigued with my accent and asked me lots of questions about Scotland, indicating that her heritage on her father’s side was mostly Scottish. She told me that her maiden name was “Moore” but that she knew little about her father’s background as he had pretty much adapted to the Swedish environment of her mother’s side. She was born and raised in North Dakota (was American, in other words), had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and religion and served as a Lutheran parish worker before marrying her husband, Gus, who was a Lutheran pastor. They had lived 18 years in Germany where Gus was in graduate school and then served as a parish pastor. Then they moved to Winnipeg where he served a Lutheran church before taking an early retirement at age 58 due to early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He had died six years previously at age 62. Presently her two children, a daughter, 26, and son, 21, still lived at home with her.

We ended up closing the café and going in search of somewhere else to continue getting acquainted. We did find another one (Salisbury House), and spent more than an hour and a half there.

I asked Gayle if I could see her “tomorrow night,” and heard her say, “Well, I’m busy tomorrow night…” (just what I was expecting), but was delighted to then hear her say, “But I’m free on Friday.”

~*~

Friday couldn’t have come soon enough for me! We went for a walk along a beautiful creek meandering into the Red River, took pictures of each other and then drove to the Forks and had dinner. We continued to talk and talk and talk.

The next night I invited her to my house to watch a film. (I spent the day cleaning things up–my housekeeping hadn’t been the best up to that point!) The movie I chose was one I had recorded some years before, a Scottish film entitled, “The Bridal Path.” This is a film that Gayle loves to watch nowadays but at the time she said she was really in the dark–could hardly understand a word of the Scottish accent!

Our snogging after the film certainly convinced me that I was head over heels in love and Gayle seemed just as intrigued with me. (Wow, and she didn’t think I was in kindergarten!!!! Interesting how one can act so naturally with some prospective partners and so awkward with others. )

So “here’s us” (I had to get that Scottishism in), two seniors, both widowed, who felt and acted like teenagers and couldn’t have been more thrilled or surprised by it all. Gayle pronounced us both “twitterpated.” She had to explain that one to me, as I had never seen the movie “Bambi” and so didn’t know the story of the two fauns, Bambi and Fayeleen, completely taken with their newly discovered passion and the rabbit Thumper teasing them about being twitterpated. Later I looked up the word online. Here are the definitions:

“1)to be completely enamored with someone/something. 2) the flighty exciting feeling you get when you think about/see the object of your affection. 3) romantically excited (i.e.: aroused) 4) the ever increasing acceleration of heartbeat and body temperature as a result of being engulfed amidst the exhilaration and joy of being/having a romantic entity in someone’s life.”[1] Whew! I’ll buy that; very appropriate word!

~*~

By Sunday, on our fourth date, I couldn’t wait any longer: I proposed! (We both had quickly realized we’d met our “soul mate” and this was a concept I’d poo-pooed for years. Now I understood what it meant!) Gayle immediately said, “yes! I couldn’t have been happier.

The next day my bubble burst, however. Gayle e-mailed me from work. I had sent her something with an attachment and she e-mailed back that she had just realized we weren’t compatible (no more explanation)! I got on the phone and called her office, completely upset. She then laughed and apologized for upsetting me but said that we weren’t compatible because she couldn’t open my attachment–she had a Mac and I had a PC! Then she said that we’d need to have a serious discussion that night. That left me on pins and needles waiting to see what was up.

That evening she explained that she had confided in a good friend, their secretary at work, who had been appalled that she had agreed to marry me after knowing me for only about a week. Gayle said that her friend felt she had to slow things down and withdraw her acceptance of my proposal “for the time being” as we really needed to take a little more time to get to know each other better.

My reaction was, “Okay, I’m not happy about this but I’ll go along with it if that’s what you want. I have just one thing more to say, however. If you decide you want to marry me in the future, you are going to have to ask me. I won’t do it again!”

I’m happy to say that it only took her another week before she proposed to me! And this is how it happened. We had been talking about our mutual talents for writing. I had told her the story of agonizing over the birthday poem I’d written for Mary for her 60th birthday and that Mary hadn’t really appreciated it. Gayle replied that she dearly would have loved to receive such a poem written just for her. In fact, she said, she’d love to receive a love letter from me.

Well, I pulled out all stops the next day and composed a doozy–most of which is a bit too personal (and steamy) to quote here. I’ll just include the conclusion, “I love you; I love you; I love you. Without you I would be nothing. The one thing I know for certain is that we were meant to be with each other. I’m sure you’ll agree that this love of ours has been manufactured by One who cares for both of us, that it was He who made the introduction, then left it for us to make it work. Till we are together again, from your own WEE (I hope ‘adorable’) Scotsman, who worships the very ground you walk on. IAN XXXXXXX———OH GAYLE, MY DARLING, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT HURTS!” And I meant every word of it.

A return e-mail shot back indicating that the love letter had worked its magic. Gayle worded her “proposal” in “code,” however. It was something like, “Would you consider joining our two names when we get married (sooner rather than later) to something like “Moore-Morrans?”

Well, I couldn’t reply quickly enough, “I don’t care what name we use, as long as you’ll marry me!” In retrospect, I’d even have dropped “Morrans” and just taken the last name “Moore.” But I didn’t think of that at the time and, anyway, Gayle likes the double-barreled name, which I still find a bit “highfalutin’!”

~*~

The week after we met Gayle invited me to attend worship services at her Lutheran church where she was actually going to deliver the sermon as part of an Evangelical Lutheran Women’s annual service that was one of the programs that Gayle was responsible for at her job. I was intrigued by her obvious talents and curious about the type of service in her particular denomination. This also gave me a unique glimpse into Gayle’s sense of self confidence and “moxey” when, after the service a woman I had got to know at the seniors’ dances came up to me with a quizzical look on her face saying, “What are you doing here, Ian?” She seemed genuinely surprised to find out I was a guest of Gayle’s. Turning to Gayle, she boldly asked, “How long have you been dating Ian?” Gayle’s answer? “None of your business!” (I loved it!)

We had been together every day for about a month, usually at my house where we would have some privacy as her almost-grown children still lived with her. We reluctantly departed late each night as Gayle returned to her home.. . . .

Gayle and I had decided to have a traditional Scottish wedding. Since my Prince Charlie jacket was gone, I needed to get a new formal jacket to go with the kilt. It seemed appropriate to order an Argyll jacket since I’m originally from Country Argyll and the handle I had used when Gayle and I were hooking up on Lava Life was “Argyll.” I located a Scottish-Canadian who had a Scottish shop in the basement of his house. Gayle and I went to his shop so that I could order and be fitted for this jacket which is slightly less formal than the Prince Charlie jacket but which is more versatile, in other words it can be formal, semi-formal or informal depending on the type of shirt, tie and waistcoat one wears with it. It doesn’t have tails and is a longer jacket which has silvery (nickel-plated) Celtic-design buttons on the sleeves and front.

As the shop owner measured me for the jacket he made the remark, “Man, are you ever a Pict!”

Surprised, we both asked, “What do you mean?” I knew that the Morrans family had originally come to Campbeltown from Northern Ireland (my great-great-grandfather). In other words, my family heritage was Celtic. However, they had been in Scotland for several generations so had intermarried with families whose origins might have been in Scotland many centuries. The Picts were the original tribe of people who had populated what eventually became Scotland.

His answer was: “The Celts and the Picts had different body types. You can tell someone of Pictish heritage by the short legs but inproportionately longer torso and arms. That fits you to a tee, Ian.”

So there you have it; I was a Pict more than a Celt. I’m not sure that this has made much difference to me, but it certainly describes why all my trousers have to be shortened to 28 inch-length, but my shirts and jackets are normal length. The Scottish tailor who made my Argyll jacket and mailed it to Canada did a great job. I added a formal tuxedo shirt and black bowtie to complete the outfit. My sealskin sporran, sgian dbuh, green flashes, formal white stockings and black brogues completed the outfit.

Gayle went across from her office on Portage Avenue to a fancy bridal shop. She originally had in mind to buy a red gown to match my red tartan kilt. However, a magnificent, gold lace wedding dress caught her eye. When she insisted I come over to see her in it (and hang tradition), I saw that she was beautiful in it. It suited her to a tee! (I surprised myself by insisting on paying for it; though I still cringe thinking of the thousand dollars it cost! That was pretty painful for this Scotsman!)

We were married on September 7, 2003 at Gayle’s church, Sherwood Park Lutheran, in the East Kildonan area of Winnipeg. Our attendants were friends, Stan  (a Scottish-born Canadian with whom I played in a band at one time) and Alexi  (a lovely friend of Gayle’s). Stan wore a rented kilt and sporran. Alexi wore Gayle’s long kilt skirt and matching cape which she’d bought in Scotland years before.

Gayle likes to relate our preparation for the wedding at her house on Battershill Street. She and Alexi had been treated to a professional make-up session by my oldest granddaughter, Tammy, a makeup artist. Then they got dressed in the master bedroom while Stan and I donned our kilt outfits in the den across the hall. Soon the women heard singing and stomping from the hallway and came out of the bedroom to view a “parade.” Stan and I were marching up and down the hallway singing,

I’ll never forget the day I went and join’d the ‘Ninety third’

The chums I used to run with said they thought I look’d absurd.

As they saluted me, and gather’d round me in a ring,

And as I wagg’d my tartan kilt they a’ began to sing –

He’s a braw braw Hielan’ laddie, Private Jock McDade.

There’s not anither soger like him in the Scotch Brigade.

Rear’d amang the heather, you can see he’s Scottish built,

By the wig, wig, wiggle, wiggle, waggle o’ the kilt.[2]

Calan and Ian, my two grandsons, were ushers; my granddaughters, Tammy and Ainsley were punch servers at the church reception and granddaughter Tiffany presided at the guest book. Our three daughters participated as well. Audrey and Gwynne read the lessons during the church service and Shirley was emcee at the evening reception. All three served as hostesses for the church reception.

We were piped out of the church by a young lass of 15 years to an afternoon reception in the lower church hall with lots of friends and family present. During the festivities, I sang Gayle a Scottish song which she delights to hear any evening we do a little bit of singing.

“Oh, my love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June.

Oh, my love is like a melody that’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, so deep in love am I;

And I will love thee still, my Dear, ‘til a’ the seas gang dry.

‘Til all the seas gang dry, my Dear, and the rocks melt wi’ the sun.

And I will love thee still, my Dear, while the sands o’ time shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Love! And fare-thee-weel, a while!

And I will come again, my Love, tho’ ‘twere ten thousand mile!”[3]

This was followed by a smaller reception for family and a few close friends in the Scandinavian Centre. (Gayle likes to keep her Scandinavian roots alive!) That night was a howling success. We had a delicious smörgåsbord (gotta get in those Swedish vowels or Gayle will correct me!) meal and then lots of music provided by friends and family.

To Gayle I sang, “Cailinn Mo Ruin-sa,” a beautiful Gaelic song. Some of the verses (in English) go like this:

“Dearest my own one, oh won’t you be mine,

Full of devotion, so modest and kind,

My heart’s full of longing and yearning for you,

Come close to me darling, you know I’ll be true.”

(I rewrote and combined parts of the next verses to reflect “our story”)

Do you remember when in Grace Cafe

I made your acquaintance on that perfect day,

Since then you are mine dear, the choice of my heart,

My promise I give you that we’ll never part.”[4]

 

Gayle and I concluded the reception by singing a duet, “September Song:”

“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December,

But the days grow short when you reach September.

As the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame,

One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.

Oh the days dwindle down, to a precious few–September, November.

And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.

These precious days, I’ll spend with you.”[5]

This seemed appropriate because we were both “seniors” and Gayle had eventually come around to accept the fact that I was ten and a half years older. She said her late husband had been eight years older than her and she had always said if she ever married again it would be to someone younger than her! Then along came Ian, aged 71 to her 60 years. I made a promise to her then and there that I would live to be 100. I said when my 100th birthday came and I was interviewed by the press as to the secret of my longevity, I’d reply, while leaning on my cane, “SEX, every day; twice on Sunday!”

[1] Definition of “twitterpated” from the Urban Dictionary.

[2] First verse and chorus of Harry Lauder’s “Waggle o’ the Kilt,” written in 1917.

[3] “My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose” was written by the Scottish bard, Robbie Burns, over two hundred and fifty years ago.

[4] Traditional Gaelic song to a waltz tempo.

[5] “September Song” composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Wikipedia describes it as “an older person’s plea to a younger potential lover that the courting activities of younger suitors and the objects of their desire are transient and time-wasting. As an older suitor, the speaker hasn’t ‘got time for the waiting game.’”

–Previews from Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story by Ian Moore-Morrans with Gayle Moore-Morrans, ©2016

01-weddingcouple-1

September 7, 2003

Analyzing your own writing

Analyzing your own writing

IMG_4104Pictured here is the entrance to our tiny apartment in Winnipeg where we will be completing almost a year’s residence by the end of May. This display of three of our published books is our small attempt to advertise our publishing efforts of the past. Getting settled in after our move from British Columbia last summer and re-adjusting to apartment living and a return to a city we left eleven years before, finding time to celebrate being with family and friends we had left behind, plus the daily struggles of adjusting to Ian’s disabilities have taken their toll on keeping up this blog.

Our previous reblog, “Is the first sentence the charm?”from  Take Five Authors inspired Gayle to go back to our previously published writings and take an analytical look at our opening sentences, both the stories written by Ian and the articles we have shared written by Gayle. Did our opening sentences do their job of grabbing the reader’s attention. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. Here’s how we think they add up:

Ian’s how-to book Metal Machining Made Easy. metal-machining-made-easy-cover-largePreface: “Congratulations, you’ve finally decided that you are going to make full use of that lathe that’s sitting idle in your workshop. Or maybe you are just thinking of buying a little lathe, and wonder if it would be worth your while, as you don’t know much about machining steel. You think it looks too technical and complicated. Well, it isn’t nearly as difficult as it seems. All that is required to do some exacting machining is the ability to read, some common sense and a little patience.”

How does this measure up? I think, for a how-to book, it certainly would grab the attention of anyone who would be looking for a book about machining metal – a rather select group of do-it-yourself types. It would encourage someone who has the right equipment but lacks the no-how to get some valuable pointers on how to use the equipment. This first sentence in the preface adds some personal interest to a factual subject.

Ian’s adventure/time travel novel Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie.Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie

Chapter One. Engulfed in the Phantom Battle: “Calan and Malcolm McKinnon were twin brothers. Both were twenty-two years of age and just an inch less than six feet in height. Calan was the studious type, always wanting to get to the bottom of things and happiest when he had problems to solve. Malcolm was just the opposite–carefree and always ready with a joke or a quick remark no matter what the situation. But most important, they were the best of friends and, like most twins, were in harmony with each other.

“The brothers had traveled north from their home in Edinburgh to Inverness, Scotland, to witness the strange phenomenon of a phantom battle. This so-called ‘battle’ was slated to happen just after dawn during the month of May at the small Loch Ashie, just east of the much larger and more famous Loch Ness. Their adventures began after Calan read a story written in the August 1999 issue of The Scots Magazine describing the battle and quoting witnesses who saw the battle during the month of May. He decided he just had to be there to see it, anything of a mysterious or historical nature certainly interested him.”

How does this measure up? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Boring!!! Editor Gayle is hanging her head. How did this get by me? Perhaps it was even me who arranged the beginning to read as it does. (Sorry about that, Ian.) In retrospect, I wish I had come up with something a lot more exciting by bringing in the phantom battle in the first sentence such as “Calan and Malcolm could hardly have known that simply trying to witness a phantom battle would have put them into the thick of it.” Perhaps it is time for a second edition/printing. (Would that I had the time.)

Ian’s memoir From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada. Cover full size

Chapter One. The Cold and Hungry Early Years. “Thinking back on my early childhood, the most miserable over-all time was when it was evening, dark outside, middle of winter, clothes damp and cold from the rain, no oil for the lamp, no candles either, which meant no light of any kind in the dump we lived in, no fire to warm me a wee bit and no food. As a wee boy of six years of age, I was just sitting all alone in a dingy one-room flat. My hair was wet and water was still running down my face from the rain. I was shivering and my teeth were chattering, as I sat hoping that maybe someone would come and light the oil lamp. Maybe that someone would have a few lumps of coal and there would finally be a nice, warm fire started. If I got too hungry I could always fill my belly with cold water; then I didn’t feel so bad any more–well, for maybe an hour.”

How does this measure up? Brilliant (too quote an over-used British expression that Ian heard way too often on his last trip to the old country). Ian paints a woeful picture of his early surroundings that have had such an impact on his life of striving to overcome the negatives of an impoverished childhood. It certainly grabbed my attention and had me wanting to read more, especially since my childhood was such a contrast.

Ian’s children’s chapter book Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie.  JLJBL Book Cover

Chapter One. Jake Wants a Pet. “Every kid needs a pet; at least that’s what Jake believed. Jake was 11 and would have loved a puppy for company–something he could have fun playing with when he got home from school. But he knew that his wish would never happen because of the scare his mother got when she was a little girl. She had been bitten by a dog and, since that attack, had always felt nervous and uncomfortable whenever any dog, big or small, happened to come close to her. Even tiny dogs upset her.”

How does this measure up? It immediately establishes the conflict that Jake wants a pet and, for some reason, hasn’t got one yet. As a child reader I would want to find out how Jake solved this conflict, especially since “every kid needs a pet.”

Ian’s short story The Moonlit Meeting. Leprachaun

“A big full harvest moon had risen high in the sky the evening I climbed to the top of Mary’s Mountain, a steep hill close to the edge of the small town in the Scottish Highlands where we had recently moved. There were strange stories about the place. Some said it was haunted by a ghost named Mary who had been murdered up there many years ago by a jealous lover, and that her ghost still roamed the area, especially on full moon nights. Others said an old sea captain had hanged himself from a tree up there after losing his sweetheart, his ghost wandering around looking for her. I didn’t believe in things like that and wanted to prove to myself it was all a lot of nonsense.”

How does this measure up? The first sentence alone sets the scene but I think the second sentence is needed to really grab one’s interest. Better yet, would be the last sentence of the paragraph. The rest of the sentences flesh things out. To get the full impact with the first sentence, perhaps it would have been better to turn the sentences around thus: “I didn’t believe all the strange stories that I’d heard about Mary’s Mountain and decided to prove to myself that they were all a lot of nonsense. A big full harvest moon had risen high in the sky the evening that I climbed that steep hill close to the edge of the small town in the Scottish Highlands where we had recently moved. …”

Gayle’s short story “An April Swim in Paradise” Flora around swimming pool

“With the sun’s rays a bit deflected as the clock nears four, it is finally time for my daily rendezvous with my beloved pool at our new home in Mexico. I don my orange flowered swimsuit to contrast with the turquoise pool walls and lavish on some sunscreen. My swim shoes await me at the brick steps that surround our upstairs bathtub; but first I need to shake them out in case any wee scorpion has decided to take refugee in one of them. (Thankfully, one hasn’t.) Grabbing my sunglasses and a towel from the clothesline downstairs, I descend from the terrace to the front lawn and down the steps into the pool. Scotty, my husband, has already moved the solar blanket off the water, skimmed the water’s surface with the pool net and turned on the pump so the water is shimmering fresh and turquoise in the sunlight.

How does this measure up? It’s harder for me to analyze my own work. The first sentence is descriptive and sets the scene. But would it have been better to begin with trying to shake out a scorpion from my swim shoes? That would have started with a possible conflict situation. 

Gayle’s blogpost: “All Moving Companies Are Not Equal. Let the Buyer Beware!”100_0726

“We called it ‘The Move From Hell.’ Okay, we didn’t literally move ‘from Hell’ but from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, more like Paradise than Hell. Yet, our move proved to be ‘hellish.’ In May and June 2015 we made what we sincerely hope is the last major move of our lives from Vernon, British Columbia to downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. Two moving companies contributed to making our move less than ideal: Two Small Men With Big Hearts (TSM) in Kelowna, BC and AMS Transportation Ltd. Inc. headquartered in Dundalk, Ontario. The latter company was the most “hellish.”

How does this measure up? I’m satisfied with the opening sentence and wouldn’t change it.

Gayle’s short story: A Scorpio versus Scorpion  ScorpionVectorImageVP

“Scorpio may be my sign of the Zodiac, but that’s really all I ever wanted to have to do with the creatures!”

How does this measure up? I’m also satisfied with the opening sentence. It establishes my sign of the zodiac and relates it to a real life scorpion which I sincerely hope I never again encounter. I think most readers would be curious to read further.

Gayle’s magazine editorial “Life’s Lessons Reinforced”  

Gayle-Editing at Esprit Magazine, Winnipeg-2004

“Beginning to write this column brings me full circle since the last issue of Esprit. Then, my horrendous fall and seven breaks in right leg and arm bones resulted in the need for someone else to write this column. Now, after 14 weeks in hospital (most of it in rehabilitation), I have two more days before going home and this editorial is due. What a place this has been to glean ideas for the topic, “Body and Spirit!” I would not have chosen the classroom, but every minute in this environment has reinforced some important lessons in life.

How does this measure up? The first sentence isn’t very dynamic, however, since it is a regular magazine column, it is probably an ok beginning and sets the scene for writing. The rest of the paragraph is more interesting and attention-grabbing. I probably should have reworded the opening by starting out: “What a  place the hospital has been to glean ideas for this issue’s topic, “Body and Spirit!”

OK. I wrote this blogpost almost two months ago, intending to expand on it when I got time. However, time has g0t away from me. We are in the throws of another move and I’ll probably not be able to come up for air again for awhile unless I find time to blog about the glorious 84th Birthday Party I threw for Ian a few days ago. On May 31st we will move to a bigger apartment in our same Winnipeg life lease apartment house (and to the penthouse floor!!). Tonight may be the only free time I can take before that move is over so this blogpost is finished. The process of analyzing some of our published writings has been fun and educational. I hope it will encourage me in my future editing to put more emphasis on the importance of effective opening sentences to a piece of writing. Thanks to Take Five Authors for the blog that got my analytic juices started.

Gayle Moore-Morrans

 

 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

BODY AND SPIRIT: LIFE’S LESSONS REINFORCED

BODY AND SPIRIT: LIFE’S LESSONS REINFORCED

 

Through the years, Gayle has shared the following with friends who are recovering from accidents or lengthy hospitalizations. Sunday she learned another friend was coping with a fractured ankle after falling on skies as she was getting off a chair lift and was jostled or startled by an over-anxious skate boarder. Here’s to a good healing, Pat! Gayle can’t blame a skate boarder for a previous accident she experienced. She was the over-anxious one wanting to spy a bird building a nest on her roof. And she never did see the darn bird! Perhaps this is what it looked like.

Bird building a nest on roof-bartramsgarden.org

 

Life’s Lessons Reinforced by Gayle Johannesson (later Moore-Morrans)
adapted from an editorial originally published in Esprit magazine, 1999, presented at a Lake Chapala Society Writer’s Group in Ajijic, Mexico, 2005

One fine Manitoba day in early May 1999, I eagerly awaited getting home after a long day at my editing job. After seven months of winter, Winnipeg was a glorious place to be and I planned to spend a long evening on my deck enjoying the warm air, extended sunshine and birdsong. As soon as I walked in, my daughter excitedly shouted, “Mum, you should check it out. I think a bird is building a nest on our roof.”

Of course, I can never leave well enough alone, so had to immediately trot out to the deck to investigate. I jumped up onto one of the benches surrounding our hexagonal deck table and then onto the table, but wasn’t close enough to view the roof. Jumping down, I hauled the table and bench closer and again hopped up onto the bench and then to the table. This time, however, I landed on a corner where there wasn’t a table leg. Down I crashed—all of three feet, mind you—slamming my right leg on the bench and landing wedged against the railing of the deck on my back with my right arm pinned under me. My frantic screams quickly brought my daughter and next-door neighbours to the scene. Soon the fire department and ambulance service arrived. I have little recollection of their rescue other than a vague feeling of horror as they threw all the furniture off our high deck and struggled to get me into a neck brace and stretcher, down the ten steep steps to the back yard and into the ambulance.

All this resulted in seven and a half hours of emergency surgery to repair what turned out to be seven breaks in the right ankle, knee and upper arm. I woke up in considerable pain with 17 pieces of metal in me—a rod and screws through the humerus, a four-inch plate in the fibula, bolts to try to hold the crushed tibial plateau at the bottom of my knee together, numerous screws to keep all these things in place, and, of course, a huge leg cast and arm immobilizer. Because of the multiple breaks it was a long time before I could get out of a wheelchair and onto crutches. My doctor declared me “architecturally challenged” because my bi-level house necessitated going down eight steps to the lower level or up eight steps to the upper level. Thus, I was destined to spend three and a half months in hospital, only being discharged in mid-August when I could finally maneuver steps on my crutches.

Most of my fourteen weeks was spent in a rehabilitation hospital, braving four hours of physiotherapy daily and gradually adding occupational and hydrotherapy sessions. I learned quickly, however, that my injuries were minor compared to most of my fellow patients, the majority of whom had suffered severe strokes, spinal cord injuries, complications from multiple sclerosis or loss of limbs due to accidents or diabetes.

What kept me relatively sane throughout all this was my editorial job. Luckily, my quarterly magazine was due to go to press a week after my accident and most of my work had been done. Our publisher quickly secured the services of one of our writers to complete my editorial and put the thing to bed. One week later I started serious work on the next issue, clumsily using my left hand and the telephone. Soon I became a one-hand whiz on my laptop computer, with the modem enabling me to communicate with writers, the office, our art designer and printer, aided by daily visits from our secretary who delivered papers back and forth. The hospital staff got quite used to me burning the midnight oil at the computer, probably considering me a bit nuts though they were very supportive as long as I didn’t keep my three roommates awake.

I’d like to share with you my editorial for the Fall 1999 issue of Esprit, the magazine of Evangelical Lutheran Women. The magazine is thematic and, as coincidence would have it, the theme for the issue which was finishing up just as I left hospital was “Body and Spirit.” I entitled it, “Life’s Lessons Reinforced.”

“Beginning to write this column brings me full circle since the last issue of Esprit. Then, my horrendous fall and seven breaks in right leg and arm bones resulted in the need for someone else to write this column. Now, after 14 weeks in hospital (most of it in rehabilitation), I have two more days before going home and this editorial is due. What a place this has been to glean ideas for the topic, “Body and Spirit!” I would not have chosen the classroom, but every minute in this environment has reinforced some important lessons in life.

“Lesson #1: I am a combination of body and spirit—an integrated whole that cannot be divided into neat categories of spiritual, emotional or physical. Wound the body and the spirit is wounded. Wound the spirit and the body is often equally affected.

“Lesson #2: It’s OK to cry. Roommates or caregivers need to allow one the chance to release emotions without feeling that the crying has to be explained or “fixed.” And, I needed to give myself permission to cry without feeling guilty or “stupid.”

“Lesson #3: Private moments are precious. I only realized how much so when I didn’t have any. Grasp them, however and whenever they come.

“Lesson #4: The social part of my humanity is equally important. The need for others is as basic as food, water or shelter. The warmth and touch a person receives or doesn’t receive from family or friends can have a profound impact on healing. What a contrast I saw in the progress of two roommates who had had similar strokes. One had no family present. Her four children, in another province, neither visited nor wrote. One son called a few times, promised the doctor he’d visit and take her home with him and then never showed up. Only one friend ever visited and then rarely. Her body healed enough to leave hospital but her spirits were low. The other woman, an Inuit from the far north, arrived with eight family members in tow. They attended therapy sessions with her, assisted in her care and kept her in their midst except for sleeping. Despite considerable disability and almost complete lack of English skills, she progressed with a cheerful demeanor, appearing confident and content.

“Lesson #5: Communication is a wonderful release. If someone will listen, it’s good to be allowed to unload a frustration, share a pain or rejoice in an improvement. When I’m the one feeling up to it, it’s also important to allow the other person to unload on me.

“Lesson #6: God loves a cheerful caregiver—and so do patients. Caregivers love a cheerful patient as well—but patients often find it hard to be cheerful all by themselves. Cheer travels, though, so let’s start with the caregiver.

“Lesson #7: Many of us who have prided ourselves as caregivers have a hard time accepting having to be cared for. It’s a humbling experience to have to ask for everything one needs. Proverbs tells us “humility goes before honour.” However, it sometimes takes a little assertiveness to make your needs known—one shouldn’t be too humble to ask.

“Lesson #8: The little things in life can give the greatest pleasure. When progress towards healing is slow, it’s important to note each little step forward. How uplifting it can be to have a therapist point out the centimeter improvement in bending or straightening a broken knee or the slight movement of a stroke-paralyzed hand. A woman I’ll call “Jane,” silenced by brain injury, one day surprised us by suddenly singing out, “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles at you!” How we celebrated those words, even though it might be a long time before she could repeat them.

“Lesson #9: The spirit of God dwells within me. The chances for meditation and interaction with the source of my being are endless. The Lord’s presence is there whether I’m lying on a stretcher in a speeding ambulance; being anointed with oil in a healing ritual before surgery; chanting silently God’s assurance from the book of Isaiah, “You are precious in my sight, and honoured and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4a) while painfully trying to turn the arm ergometer; anxiously taking the first steps on crutches; talking about losses and gains with my roommates; suffering neglect from too-busy medical staff; receiving a hot pack or massage from caring medical staff; praying behind curtains closed around my bed nook; or lying sleepless gazing at God’s beautiful night of moon and clouds outside my window. God is always there to sustain and comfort me. It’s good to be healing in body and spirit. Praise the Lord!

Gwynne & Gayle on crutches-Aug 1999_edited-1August 1999, Finally home after 3 1/2 months in rehab. Gwynne, just back from a summer in Norway and Gayle on her crutches. At left is part of our high deck and the steps I had to be carried down on a stretcher in May.

A Scorpio Versus Scorpions

The following story was written by Gayle about an unfortunate incident she experienced during her and Ian’s time living at their house in Chapala, Mexico in 2006.

A Scorpio Versus Scorpions          ScorpionVectorImageVP

Scorpio may be my sign of the Zodiac, but that’s really all I ever wanted to have to do with the creatures!

One March evening during our sojourn in Mexico we had just enjoyed a long moonlit soak in the hot tub when about 10 p.m. Ian went inside to refresh our drinks. I took advantage of his absence to get out my foam exercise “noodle” and do my daily aqua sit-ups.

(Little known to me, there must have been a “wee creepy” sleeping in the hollow inside of the noodle, which decided to join me for his or her water exercises!) I had just put the noodle aside when I noticed what I thought was a floating begonia flower that had likely dropped from a planter hanging over the pool. Instead of picking it up with our pool sieve, I stupidly went to scoop it out with my hand and it stung me on the middle finger! Practically blinded by the pain, I slapped my hand down on my thigh and got two more stings before flinging it over the edge of the tub. Then, with terrible burning sensations in both finger and thigh, I (in Ian’s words) “came out of the pool like a tsunami and screaming like a banshee!”

There was no question in our minds that I had encountered a very startled scorpion – and we weren’t about to look for it to verify our suspicions. We quickly dried off, got dressed and within a few minutes were off to the 24-hour Red Cross clinic at the other end of Chapala.

By the time we got there (about 15 minutes later) it felt as if my entire arm and upper leg were on fire, my tongue was feeling “funny” and my lips were numbing, but luckily I had no swelling. I was rushed into a ward, put onto a bed and hooked up to an IV within a few minutes. Then came two huge syringes about 5 inches long and one inch in diameter. The combination of antihistamine and steroids gradually rid me of the mouth-numbing sensations but the excruciating stinging just kept up.

About an hour and a half later I was released and we motored off to the nearby town of Ajijic, which has the only nearby 24-hour pharmacy, to fill a prescription for pain pills (which, incidentally, didn’t seem to me to help much).

It was then midnight. I attempted to sleep but was so miserable and restless I knew Ian would get no sleep if I stayed in bed, so I went upstairs to our den with a window wall overlooking the lake and distant mountains and read through the night as best I could. The pain finally left my thigh (which sported two ugly red welts) by the following evening. The pain in the arm started to abate that first night but the finger itself just kept up that fiery stinging sensation for about 36 hours, although only a slight prick marked the spot. For the next couple of weeks my finger was totally numb; then, very slowly the feeling started coming back.

Two months later, I just had a very slight numbness at the tip of the finger. A doctor friend of ours prescribed a “second generation antihistamine” tablet to keep on hand at all times. He says any subsequent scorpion sting would probably result in an even worse and quicker reaction so it’s important to be prepared and, before heading for a clinic, to take the medication.

We’ve read that the scorpions in our area are only “semi-deadly”, that on a scale of one to four they are only a “two.” Imagine what a number “four” could do! (We’ve also heard of a local woman who died from a scorpion sting because she didn’t get medical help!)

Need I say that, ever since, I’m very careful to check my noodle before doing any exercises? And I steer clear of any scorpion I see, letting Ian zap them on sight. We continue to find the occasional dead one in the house, but Ian’s monthly spraying seems to get the critters before they get very far. Considering this encounter and others we’ve had with “wee critters” in Mexico, we don’t think we were cut out to be “southerners!”

Exercising with my noodle on a non-scorpion evening.

Exercising with my noodle on a non-scorpion evening.

100_0351

Our hot tub, garden and surroundings in Chapala, Mexico