Archives for category: love

xmas1987In 1987 I stood in for a tree when my sisters and our parents celebrated Christmas together for the last time in their tiny apartment. In 1988 Father died of an aneurism, in 1990 Mother died in her sleep, in 2002 Tanis (necklace) died of a stroke and in 2016 Enid (bow) died from Alzheimer’s disease. We all have to go some time and I think of them with love. One thing I know for sure is that neither you nor I want to die of or see anyone else die of Alzheimer’s, like Enid. Here’s what I do to score little victories that bring back one memory at a time:

1. Don’t panic if you are out shopping and can’t remember where you parked you car, have just jumped into the driver’s seat and can’t remember where you are going, or have gone down the basement to get something but can’t remember what. Pause, take a deep breath, keep quiet and tell yourself everything is going to be OK. The information is still inside and you can get it back. Then go over in your mind what you can remember doing just before you got blocked. Wait patiently until the missing information pops back.

2. After having a scare like this, I spend time just taking extra care of my memory. It needs to be exercised just as much as any part of the body. I do regular basic home exercises, if nothing else such as swimming is available. They make blood flow to my head and nourish my brain cells.

3. Practice and rehearsing are the keys. Before education was reformed in the sixties, children were taught ‘by rote’ in school. They had to memorize and recite poems and lessons. Before the days of TV, people put on recitals and concerts where poems as well as music were performed. Anyone who has read Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi knows how the river captains had to stretch their minds to an amazing capacity to accommodate mounds of changing, life-saving information. I know a pianist who glows to talk about how her memory has grown with each long performance piece she commits to it.

4. On the scale of my life, I have at least learned to go grocery shopping without a list and not forget anything. It is a big satisfaction! I make the list at home and then use a mnemonic, such as memorizing the first letter of each item on my list and reciting it to myself a few times. If I forget something in the store, I pause and try to remember it — or else do without!

5. The memory game or puzzle I like best is Sudoku. My performance on it indicates what shape my memory and ability to focus are in. After not having done it for months, I unloaded it for free on my ipad and found I had relapsed to the ‘easy’ level whereas I used to be at ‘difficult.’ I’m doing a few puzzles each day to try to climb back up again. A bit of pigheadedness probably helps fight off the Alzheimer Scrooge too.

Happy Preparing for Your Memorable, Unforgettable Family Christmas Holiday Time!

http://www.cozybookbasics.com  www.margaretvirany.com  www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

 

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As a UK diplomat to Canada’s capital in the fifties, author Nicholas Monsarrat (The Cruel Sea, etc.) lived in a heritage chateau with leaded windows high on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Our Club de Voile Grande Rivière (aka the Aylmer Sailing Club) sits farther upriver on a widened bend called Lac/Lake Deschênes and we held our end-of-season party at the chateau on Nov. 11. I wore a Remembrance Day poppy but forlorn sentiments were chased out by the Christmas spirits crashing the party. Yachters chatted like happy heralds as we sipped cocktails and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres passed around daintily. The party was free and crowded, since members had already paid for it in their club dues last Spring.

Marcel and Joanne, who have reached retirement age, had tidings of good will and great joy to broadcast. They had just got married after living together for forty years. The ceremony took place at their home, with the wedding banns posted on the front door and their two grown children as witnesses. As a joke, the wedding was kept secret until they arrived from Europe. At first their son thought the white paper on the front door was a construction permit for renovations but when he read it he blurted out, “What the ……. is this?” Instead of buying a home and settling down, the newlyweds will sell their house but keep their sailboat, make lots more friends and have new adventures.
David, a physicist and lawyer, looked contented and cheerful as a cherub even though he is 75 and sick. He uses a cane to get on and off his boat and loves his crew of family and friends who handle the ropes and sails. Ten years of treatment for cancer have not prevented him from travelling to academic conferences as a guest speaker and foremost expert on cold fusion. He doesn’t expect to live very much longer but is always more concerned about other people and advised us to travel while we are still in good health. One of the things he did right years ago was his divorce. Instead of hiring lawyers and going to court, he and his wife agreed they no longer wished to live together and parted with a handshake. The only quarrel they had was over the refrigerator. Due to their continuing friendship, she recently helped him resettle in a very convenient condo. We were inspired by David’s way of solving problems and facing death with equanimity. He enjoys his grandchildren and babysits when needed. He is a very wise man.

I held back to peek into the coffee room and get a preview of the desserts when the  sailors started flowing from the bar down the hall to the dining room to eat entrées being cooked at several stations. How startled I was to see a pair of wide-open baby eyes staring at me from the sofa! Lavioletta’s mother Maria had found a quiet corner with a sofa where she could cuddle and feed her precious gift from god. Stunningly beautiful in a gray-and-white three-piece outfit with matching polka dot hair bow, she was just learning to focus. Maria held her up so she could zoom in on me at close range and try to grab my little finger. I was thrilled and she was amazed to discover this ‘something’ so close and so big. We few in the room formed a semi-circle of adoration around her and cooed in the universal language of baby babble. Maria and Jean had two boats in the marina when they met but now they have one. It was overwhelming to see their love, pride, joy, optimism and readiness to be parents responsible for their little family’s future.

The party in its mystifying setting was a prelude to Christmas as well as the end to a season delayed by a big flood. Joy to all in celebrating the best of human kind!

Happy Reading, Writing and Living from Cozy Book Basics!

http://www.margaretvirany.cozybookbasics.com  www.margaretvirany.com  www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

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  • I never met my grandfather, Walter Ward of Portsmouth, UK but I know he doodled and had twinkling eyes. His obituary said he was “a Peter Pan of a man who never grew old,” “a genius of friendship,” and “one who walked with both princes and paupers.”
  • My grandmother, Elizabeth, on my fourth birthday in 1937, sat beside me on the back stoop to do a jigsaw puzzle and shell peas. Then she served a princess-pink dessert called ‘blamonge’ (blanc mange ) for dinner, since I said I didn’t like cake.
  • My father Jack Kell of Cookstown, ON joined the Royal Navy Canadian Volunteer Reserve with two high school buddies in 1917, arrived at Portsmouth barracks and saw a sign on a telephone pole. It invited colonial servicemen to come to the Methodist Chapel Young Men’s Sunday Morning Bible Class.
  • When the buddies went the next Sunday the teacher, Mr. Ward, invited them also for Sunday tea at his home with his family. That consisted of his wife, his eldest daughter Kathleen (my mother) and the twins Enid and Eric.
  • The ‘Chapel’ was four stories high, had four indoor bathrooms and was on land where John Wesley had preached two centuries before. The Ward tea party also attended the Sunday evening service.
  • The J.B. (‘Jolly Baker’) Ward & Sons Bakery stood on a busy corner. My great grandfather, Jabez Burt Ward, had founded the business on the miracle of baking powder and taken his four sons into it. Walter was the accountant.
  • J. B.’s office was linked by a secret door and passageway to his bedroom in the first in a row of three brick houses. He was a widower who lived with his four unmarried children, Frank, Clara, John and Alice. The second house was for Walter and his family and the third house was occupied by J.B.’s son, James, and his wife Lottie.
  • As a councillor for the City of Portsmouth, Walter sat on committees to provide better housing for the poor and combat the spread of venereal disease.
  • He became founding President of the Portsmouth Brotherhood in 1919, an organization to help returning servicemen adapt to civilian life. He was a sought-after guest speaker across the country.
  • In early  December, 1925 Aunt Enid married an Australian sailor, Joseph Burnett. He had come for tea during the war and now his ship was being refitted in the Portsmouth dockyards.
  • When they got back from their honeymoon in Switzerland Joe found out he would be in command of the crew of 25 who were on duty on Christmas day. The question was, how would he round the sailors up and get them back on board after spending their leave wallowing in the debauchery of the harbor? They would all be drunk.
  • Elizabeth and Walter promptly invited the whole crew to come and eat, drink and be merry on Christmas at their place. They got all the food ready in J.B.’s house, while a raucous party complete with J.B.’s stories of South Africa, Eric’s conjuring tricks, ukuleles, cocked hats, raunchy Australian songs and recitations rocked Walter’s house next door.
  • If we must have wars, thank goodness we also have kind human beings on the home front who don’t let us lose. Elizabeth and Walter knew how to live. They found husbands for their two daughters even though 50,000 Englishmen were killed in the war. They provided lonely sailors in a far-off port with a temporary home. They paid half fare so that their children and grandchildren in Australia, Canada and England could meet at a family reunion and bond for life.

Without a war I would never have been born.  My solemn efforts to remember turn up moments of love and joy.

http://www.margaret virany.com  www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany  www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com

 

Count Leo Tolstoy and H. G. Wells are delicious sources of marriage counseling. They knew all about long-lasting marital love, the theme of the book I am now writing,  so I have gone to them to broaden my knowledge and get some new wrinkles.

Writing Secret # 6 from the Reclusive Lady of Shalott: Reading is a large part of writing, not to be neglected. You owe it to your readers to be informed on your subject. You owe it to yourself to know who your competitors are.

  • Tolstoy’s book, Anna Karenina, portrays the successful marriage of Konstantin Leven and his wife Kitty. The detailed ups and downs of a husband’s emotions come from the fact that Konstantin, the awkward landowner, resembles Tolstoy himself.
  • H. G. Wells’ book, Marriage, is a marvelous adventure story, full of confidence about what pleases women, and optimism. It was made into a movie in Hollywood’s pioneer days.
  • When the marriage breaks down and Rag is going off on his own to the most remote place in the world he can think of–namely, Labrador–Madge is persuaded by her mother-in-law to drop everything (even, figuratively, her young child) and goes along, too.
  • Also helpful is the role model of my parents’ 61-year marriage, portrayed in Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.
  •  Kay and Jack forge their happiness in Canada’s isolated north, with the earthy input of native wisdom. So do Wells’ hero and heroine.
  • They had to cope with giving birth while living in the bush, and that’s where the cariole comes into the picture. Kay insisted on having her baby in a hospital.
  • That might make sense to a British war bride but it was not easy when the temperature was thirty below and the hospital was five days by dog team away.
  • However, Jack was undaunted and his guide was all-knowing. Needless to say it was accomplished; the author is proof.

But after the birth what happened? Here are some quotes to show it wasn’t going to be so simple to retrieve mother and baby and bring them back to the Indian reserve (as it was called in 1929.)

” On March 9  they parted, since it was too cold to take the baby on a  trip … They would meet again, when the spring waters flowed.” 

“In late May, Jack and two guides started out for Norway House with a canoe tied to a toboggan…” 

“They got on a private motorboat…and were lucky they didn’t drown…”                        

From pages 110-111 of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.

 

Kathleen’s Cariole Ride will be on sale at Prose in the Park, Ottawa’s young, famous, wide-open literary event, on June 4. It is a happy, optimistic story where you can laugh out loud as you watch other people struggle. You hope that, like most of us, these characters, with all their idiosyncracies, will somehow get out of the muck.

 

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

 

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Yesterday I nailed paragraphs one and two of chapter four of my novel by tidying up and inviting camels. It was the climax to days of hard work on my book about lovers whose marriage just keeps on going and going. I kept reading from the beginning of the book to pace myself and find the most exciting direction to take.
Here’s how I proceeded:

  • For the umpteenth time I tidied up, tossing out all the unnecessary or awkward words in the way.
  • It’s so important to grab my reader’s interest in the contents and characters at this point.
  • What is the crux of it all? Who are they? Can they really do this? Where are they heading?
  • In this chapter they write to each other for four months before making a public splash out of the most private event in their lives.
    I knew I had it right when I noticed:
  • The first paragraph is only 40 words long but sums up everything that happens in the letters.
  • It exaggerates a little to make it light, subtly humorous and satirical.
  • With a nod to pyramid-style journalism, it gives answers to ‘who, what, when, where and why’.
  • Paragraph two, made up of 162 words to fill in the heroine’s personality, came easily. I was on a roll from paragraph one.
  • It not only gives details about what makes Eve unique. It also relates her to the clichés of ‘almighty housewife’, ‘feminine mystique’ and ‘stay-at-home mom.’
  • What really thrills me is that, when I read it over, I found I had unintentionally written three sentences that bring camels to mind without using the word. I wonder how many readers will pick up on that?
  • I’m sure you are familiar with them. There’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, a quarrel over a trifle. Then the warning not to love money too much, because it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven. Thirdly I used the word ‘hump’ for an obstacle (and you know who has one on his back.)
  • And did I say something about pyramid-style journalism?
  • Creative writing takes on a life of its own. This is why the Lady of Shalott has to be a recluse. I’ll be able to repeat the motif later in my book to add to its strength and unity.

Tip: If you can make your story universal it will be well loved and read. You will have crossed over the bar between ordinary prose and literature.

My father wore a Canadian sailor suit and my mother wore her English high school lab coat when they met in the middle of WWI and preserved love letters we can now read.

My father wore a Canadian sailor suit and my mother wore her English high school lab coat when they met in the middle of WWI and preserved love letters we can now read.

Patricia Zick of  Author-Wednesday interviews Margaret Kell Virany whose books include A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, the love story of an English young woman and a Canadian young man set during World War I. Kathleen’s Cariole Ride is set during the same time period.

Q. How do you envision yourself in this role of writing romantic historical books based on your life and that of your parents?

A. Lover of life, language and literature. Note-taker, journalist, editor, author. I write. Little things turn me on, like scraps of paper in a keepsake box and the memory of strawberry socials, harvest suppers and silver teas. The act of being a witness, a record-keeper, a storyteller, and the one who remembers has always excited me.  I feel like I am part of a wider community. My ideal is to help others “see eternity in a grain of sand” (William Blake) and gain access to the best truth we have. As the historian, Sallustius said in 4 A.D, “What happened is what always happens.”

Q. I love that. It’s very poetic, which is very fitting based on your style of writing. Do all your books have a common theme or thread?

A. Yes. Love is my theme. It comes in various specialties: the romantic love of a young couple, parental love, filial love, family bonds, charity, love for other human beings, and the all-embracing divine love brought to earth and presented as an ideal by the Gospels. For me, it was a personal pilgrimage of going home to my parents after finding their love letters had been left in a keepsake box, surely for some purpose.

Kathleen Ward let her lover sail home after he came back to court her after WWI. Later they married and their daughter wrote their story, based on love letters (A Book of Kells).

Kathleen Ward let her lover sail home after he came back to court her after WWI. Later they married and their daughter wrote their story, based on love letters (A Book of Kells).

Q. What a wonderful and powerful perspective. Why has it been so important to explore this theme of love?

A. If people don’t get or give enough love they go searching for it, and a good book can be their voyage. When I was coming of age in the fifties, it was still a bit of an anomaly for a woman who had children to work outside the home. Women like my mother came out of a world, both deprived and romantic, that had untold, inestimable influence on the direction of children, husbands, and society. Such love practices inspired the line, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” (William Ross Wallace, 19th century Indiana poet)

Q. That’s a perfect quote to express what you’ve done in your writing. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

A. “Virany’s account of their (her parents’) adventures … is riveting. (She) has the natural gifts of a born storyteller who keeps you caring about the characters no matter where they are. When the Kells finally return to civilization the pace of the narrative doesn’t flag.” From a review by Ellen Tanner Marsh, New York Times bestselling author.

Here's the picture of my mother I used on the cover of Kathleen's Cariole Ride.

Here’s the picture of my mother I used on the cover of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.

Q. I’d be very proud of that review as well. Very nice and I’m sure rewarding. How did you choose the title, A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void?

A. In my years spent studying English literature at the University of Toronto, I noticed certain things about classics. I wanted to do things that would identify my memoir as that category of book. Fortuitously my family name, Kell, is the same as that of the most famous manuscript of ancient western civilization, The Book of Kells. Millions of tourists go to look at it in Dublin each year, so it would have a familiar ring even for those who couldn’t pin it down. Beginning the title with “A Book of …” gave it a serious, nonfiction tone. My literary background also led me to load my title with words that had multiple meanings and associations which would give clues to the type of content inside. My parents lived their married life as if it were a book. There is an ancient concept of life being one’s “book of days.” For dates and events, I leaned on my parents’ daily diaries. The title could also refer to the Bible, the book that most guided my ancestors and parents. I hit the jackpot, I felt, when I disovered that the root of the name Kells was, according to some scholarship, a synonym for all Celts or Kelts, the dominant tribe who inhabited the region north of the Mediterranean Sea in 500 B.C. This was generic; anyone with a name with the Kell prefix is one of the tribe so the word should have wide appeal. Another meaning for “kell” was a hair net or covering and that was an appropriate symbol for my upbringing as a minister’s daughter. My title might make people think it was a family history, which it partly was, at least for the most recent four generations.

It would be a long, lonely journey for my father from the white cliffs of Dover back to the Indian reserve in Oxford House, MB. But he was not one to give up hope too easily.

It would be a long, lonely journey for my father from the white cliffs of Dover back to the Indian reserve in Oxford House, MB. But he was not one to give up hope too easily.

Q. That’s fascinating. I’m always interested in the creative process, so how did you decide to write this book?

A. I wanted to write it as a romantic novel while sticking rigorously to the facts as I knew them or was able to reconstruct them by careful logic. It should have a beginning, middle, climax and end but these should not be superimposed. They should emerge from what I could find out; the story must be allowed to tell itself. It was a test to see whether the literary structures I had been taught really worked. I had to discipline myself not to make things up. I already had on my hands a self-described knight and lady who had rubbed shoulders with real prime ministers and princes. They courted and treated each other accordingly. I did not have to manufacture their raw emotions because I had their seventy-two authentic love letters from the 1920s. I had been blessed by a bonanza in a keepsake box; I just had to call forth my muses to elicit it and do it justice.

Here is a beautiful quote I just received as a comment on my “About” page of my blog. “Memories are a nursery where children who are growing old play with their broken toys. Kells is an extraordinary book, presenting the extraordinary story of extraordinary people living in extraordinary times.” John W. Bienko

Q. That is lovely. I’m so glad you stopped by today, Margaret. Yours is a unique story and one worth telling. Won’t you tell us  more about yourself?

Oceanbound to a Family Reunion in 1937 (illustration from A Book of Kells)

Oceanbound to a Family Reunion in 1937 (illustration from A Book of Kells)

A. About Margaret Kell Virany: Born on a farm on the northern fringe of Toronto, I got a degree in English Language & Literature and married my Varsity heart throb. Early employment was at the Toronto Telegram, Maclean-Hunter and freelancing for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Montreal Star, and Montreal Gazette. My most fun jobs were as professional public relations secretary first of the Montreal YMCA and then of the Toronto YMCA, and as a program organizer of CBC-TV’s first live nationally televised conference The Real World of Woman (1961). Following a move to Canada’s capital region, I became editor/co-owner of the weekly newspaper in my home town of Aylmer, QC and had the busiest, best career of a lifetime. Upon discovering the keepsake box full of love letters, journals and photos my parents left, I published A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. It records my family’s lives and my uneasy coming of age as a minister’s daughter. Then I wrote Kathleen’s  ariole Ride recounting my parents’ transatlantic courtship and adventures living on a Cree reserve in the north. At the 2012 Centennial Conference honoring the literary critic, Northrop Frye, I learned that my notes of his lectures would be among those posted on the fryeblog, available for public download. This success brought me back to the day when I dropped out of college for a year and learned shorthand on my very first job, as a receptionist at the ‘Tely’.

Thank you for dropping in. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertaining. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Author’s tips are offered by word and writing advice by example.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics! http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany  www.margaretvirany.com