Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Souls on Display

Today’s the last day for the Student and Member Show on exhibit at the Portage and District Arts Centre. 

I found it nearly impossible to pick favorites, but I’ve narrowed mine to three: Jytte Johnston’s two
Photo by G.Loewen Photography
beautiful stained-glass vases, Gayle Loewen’s inviting “Prairie Pathway” (photo on canvas), and Caleb Hamm’s mesmerizing “Scattered Wampum” (ink and gouache on paper).

If you attended, you no doubt chose different favorites than mine, and that’s what makes art so wonderful.

In her remarks to the opening night crowd, the centre’s Executive Director Margaret Bernhardt-Lowdon spoke about the courage it takes for artists to “put themselves out there.” Their creations are an extension of their very souls, and to put them on display invites comments they may not always be prepared to hear.

As a writer, I could relate. I know how rejection and harsh critique can sting. To date, my three books combined have received over 700 reviews on Amazon—which is great, because more reviews promote more sales; more sales increase the likelihood of a next book. But even though most of those reviews are positive and encouraging, some are downright mean. And because they can post anonymously, reviewers have nothing to lose. This week alone, the following two comments were left by two different people about the same book:

I hated it. Dowdy and uninteresting.

This book was so well written and had so many facets, I couldn’t help but finish it in a day!

You really can’t please everyone. Artists or not, we’re all subject to the criticisms of others—sometimes constructive, often not. How do we deal with it?

Years ago, a wise friend taught me a trick that I used to teach my church drama team and still practice to keep myself grounded. Throughout your day, as you receive both affirming and discouraging words, it’s okay to gather them up and hold them awhile. Like gathering a bouquet of flowers, enjoy the beauty and the fragrance of the applause. And like you would with nasty darts, go ahead and feel the sting of the criticism—don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt. But when you lay your head on your pillow at night, take both flowers and darts and place them at the feet of the Master Artist – the one who made you, who understands your heart, and who creates with you – and leave them there. He alone deserves the praise. He alone can heal the wounds. He alone can handle too much of either one.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Bone to Pick

Well, my goose is cooked now.

Local chiropractor Dr. Bruce Narvey has been giving me regular attitude adjustments since I was pregnant with our youngest son, who turned 30 last January! Dr. Narvey has served our family through thick and thin—even going above and beyond by treating Hubby in a Winnipeg hospital following his 1995 arm amputation. And if all that isn’t enough to earn my undying loyalty, the fact that he reads my books ought to be.

Why then, one wonders, would I name a villain after him?

On my last visit to his torture chamber—I mean, office—our conversation sounded something like this:
“I have a bone to pick with you. Just one.”
When a chiropractor has a bone to pick, it can’t be good. Where exactly did he find this bone?
“Yeah. I finished the book. It’s very good. But…”
I always dread the but.
“Did I get something wrong?” My mind skimmed the details of the novel, wondering which historical fact I may have misrepresented.
“Well, I can’t help wondering why the one real jerk in the book has the same name as me.”


I laughed. I remembered naming that character. I knew he was going to be a mean one, but Mr. Grinch had already been taken. Ebenezer seemed too obvious, as did Adolf, Goliath, and Lucifer. Then too, there’s the trick of giving your character a name appropriate to the era and ethnicity. I usually look up the most popular names for the year of a character’s birth and choose from that list. This time, I thought I’d try a little subliminal psychology. I figured if the name sounded like brute, perhaps readers would be subconsciously predisposed to fear him. Hence, Bruce was born.

And honestly, it never occurred to me. But sitting in his office, the opportunity seemed too good to pass up.

“Well,” I said. “You must have a little bit of bully hidden under the surface, or you wouldn’t enjoy cracking people’s bones.”

This is not a wise thing to say to a man who’s about to crack your bones.

“I do not have any bully in me whatsoever. And I am most certainly not a Nazi sympathizer.”

Oh. I’d forgotten that detail about my fictional Bruce. And about Dr. Narvey’s Jewish heritage. 

We laughed and teased some more. I got my adjustment and walked out better aligned than when I walked in, and with a blog post already beginning to write itself.

Today is Remembrance Day. One reason I like writing novels about life here in Canada during World War II is because of the heroes who fought to end the atrocities overseas. It occurred to me that if no one had prevented Adolf Hitler from completing his mission, Bruce Narvey and I would not be picking bones or laughing together. He would not be my chiropractor or my friend. The Narveys and their people would have been wiped off the planet before Bruce was even born.

And I stopped laughing.

Lest we forget, indeed.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Practically a Spa Day

One of the perks of living with a chronic lung disease is that you can occasionally book a day off work while your doctor runs a garden hose down your throat and takes a look around. I try to think of it as a spa day, with my own handsome chauffeur to drive me around. 

We rise at stupid o’dark in the morning for the drive to Grace Hospital & Day Spa, and I hope my doc is getting a good sleep. A nice lady who calls me “Hon” checks me in. A fellow appropriately named Manny leads me into the prepping area where he gives me one of those fashionable one-color-suits-all, one-size-fits-none gowns. A nurse tucks a warm blanket around me to lull me into thinking she’s on my side. Then she sticks a needle in the back of my hand, a blood pressure cuff on my arm, and a clothes pin on my finger. Another expertly steers me into the treatment room. I assume the rubber chicken stuck to the ceiling is to boost patient confidence in the skill level of medical professionals.

My doc hands me a shot glass full of vile stuff to gargle. This numbs the back of my throat, which deactivates my gag reflex…although yours is probably kicking in about now. After he introduces a drug to my I.V., the colorful supply bins on the shelf start dancing a mildly hypnotic jitterbug.

They have me clamp down on a mouth guard, like a football player. Then a teensy-weensy camera goes down my gullet, and I see exactly what the doctor sees on the monitor in front of me. Of course, by this time, I am so looped I think I’m watching a documentary on cave exploration. Every time the doc squirts down more saline solution, I cough and the TV screen goes all snowy, like our old black and white used to do every time our next-door neighbor, Eddie Haddad, used his electric razor. Frustrated us kids to no end if we were in the middle of Bonanza.

Anyway, the whole deal is done before I have time to enjoy the sauna or mineral pool or a manicure. I’m wheeled to the recovery room which I’ll share with seven of my new closest friends who have also been scoped, although it’s not polite to ask where. I’m given another warm blanket. This is followed by a pleasant, dozy hour of quietly contemplating the meaning of everything. A cool glass of apple juice confirms that my swallowing mechanism is up and running again. 

I’m unhooked from all tubes and set free to dress and leave the spa—with some precautions, like no driving for 24 hours. Why couldn’t they say, “no cooking?”

On the ride home, a song comes on CHVN:
You are the way, You are the truth
You are the breath inside my lungs
You give me strength when I am weak
You are the one who lifts me up.
(from the song Shelter by Carollton)

I thank God for my lungs, my driver, a sunny day, a job with sick benefits, and for my good doctor and nurses. I can feel grateful and laugh at all this because I know that the one who’s ultimately in control is the same one who’s holding me in his everlasting arms.

Contact me if you’re facing your first bronchoscopy. I’m an old pro—and it’s practically a day at the spa.