Tag Archives: motivation

The questions I forgot to ask

My mother is an amazing storyteller. She’s given us the gift of details about her sisters, parents, aunts, and cousins, as well as the cast of characters that lived nearby in their beautiful yet rugged mountain village of Pisticci, Matera, Italy.

She’s told us about our genetics – like our aunts who were 5 by 5 (as in 5 feet tall by 5 foot wide). About her malservisi – naughty behaviours and tricks she and her sisters and friends would play on the adults of the village, like wrapping up garbage to look like a gift and then laughing their heads off when two men fought over who would get to take it home. Crepava della risa: they would die laughing.

Mom the storyteller

Mom, the storyteller, holding court with my aunt, uncle and grandfather (and my cousin Sal peeking in from behind his dad)

She told us about the more shocking characters in the family, like the distant cousin in the 1800s who killed the priest who got her pregnant. Or the aunt who enjoyed the company of quite a few men.

My father, on the other hand, wasn’t a storyteller. His childhood was brutal and short. While he always spoke with guarded respect about his parents, there was a clear recognition that he was not permitted let alone encouraged to live the life he really wanted.

Dad always egged my mother on to tell her stories. In his later years, during our weekly visits, he would remind my mother of the stories he wanted her to tell. Despite the fact that my mother’s childhood was filled with illness and poverty, and was sadly overshadowed by the untimely and early death of her own mother, mom’s stories always included a lot of laughter.


The daily activities from the day my dad landed in Halifax on board the SS Argentina

Immediately after my father died, I realized there were so many questions I forgot to ask him. This morning, that realization came back again. I was reading an article about an Italian immigrant who landed in Halifax in November 1952 on board a ship called SS Argentina. My father arrived at Pier 21 aboard that same ship only a few months earlier in March 1952.

Pier 21 invites immigrants and their families to submit their stories and other artefacts from their arrivals. I would love to submit an article, but I’m not sure that I can.


In clearing out my parents’ house, we found that dad had kept the daily announcements from the ship. There’s also a picture of him enjoying a celebratory dinner with his fellow travellers. But I have no idea what his first experiences were like in Canada. I don’t have a picture in my mind of that long train ride from Halifax through Montreal to Union Station in Toronto, where my mother would have met him. My mother can fill in some of the blanks, but I wish I had asked him about those days.

Onboard the SS Argentina

Dad at the back right hand side, shaking hands with a fellow passenger

I don’t think I told my father I was writing a book. Probably because I had my doubts I would ever get it done. I have told my mother, and now I have a huge sense of urgency to get it written. The book is not a biography of my mother or any family member, but I am finding ways to weave her funny and poignant stories throughout. I get a thrill each time I’m able to perfectly place one of her anecdotes. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to share her gift with others. I just wish I could do the same for my father.








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Running down a dream

Today, I ran my first half marathon. It has been a goal six years in the making. I came close in 2008, but then a stupid injury sidelined me. Illness, a couple of surgeries and pure laziness kept me from succeeding.

Last January, when I was on a trip to LA with my sister, I knew I had to make a big change in my life. My health had to become my priority.

After nine months of training (with a 2 month break because of travel and a mild case of laziness), I ran the Niagara International Half Marathon

After the run, with our hard earned medals.

After the run, with our hard earned medals.

with my husband, who has also been my awesome and patient coach. It was hard. My legs are not fully functional and probably won’t be for days. My head hurts. And I feel awesome.

I finally reached this goal because I had a plan: “do this much running on these days for this many weeks.” I had to start with a walking plan to build up my fitness. Then my running had to increase to be able to run 10 minutes and walk 1. And then my mileage had to build from 3 km all the way up to 20, and finally 21 km today. It meant running when I didn’t want to. There was a lot of swearing, I won’t lie. A bit of whining too. The couch would be calling, but Dave would be in his running gear and I knew I had to get my ass in gear.

At the beginning, I was scared that I would fail again. That it would continue to be this illusive goal. Right up until I went over the finish line, I was afraid I couldn’t do it.

Stickers helped me to celebrate my progress. Apparently, I'm 8 years old.

Stickers helped me to celebrate my progress. Apparently, I’m 8 years old.

But I did it.

And now I know I can apply the same approach to writing. I went back and re-read my notes and outline. I’m pretty happy with a lot of it, but I’ve also forgotten a lot of the direction I was heading. I’ve been intimidated by the historical research I need to do. Intimidated by the character sketches and plot points.

No more. It’s time to at start by walking, not just talking about it. So it will start with dividing the work I need to do into one month chunks, researching one key topic at a time, then developing character sketches, then moving on to those plot points.  I won’t do it if I allow the intimidation to stall me or if I try to do everything at once.

I know today won’t be my last half marathon (not quite ready to commit to a full marathon yet). I am thankful for how it has prepared me to go after the biggest goal of my life.


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Creative Outlets

Earlier this summer, I decided that, come fall, I would join a choir and play hockey. I was hoping that being in a choir would give me a creative outlet while hockey would allow me to hip check to my heart’s desire. Well, fall is here here (September 22 – not even the calendar will let me deny it), and the thought of strapping on skates has me heading straight for choir practice.

A few people have been shocked by this turn of events. The hitting of hockey they could understand. But choir? What the what?

Their confusion can almost be excused (just barely). I’ve never had aspirations to be a rock star, although I did have an outfit when I was 7 years old that made me feel like one.

I may look ready for story time - really, I was ready to rock!

I may look ready for story time – really, I was ready to rock!

I have always loved to sing and usually I only subject my husband and my best friend to my voice. A choir will give me a place where I can blend my voice with others. And just like the exercise I’m supposed to be doing, it will also give me a healthy release. A way to express myself out loud that won’t get me in trouble.

I’m hoping to use this creative space to help keep me going through the research phase of the book. Being the super active person that I am, I like to think of it as cross training. I need a creative kick in the ass. I caught myself choosing to clean instead of studying up on character development. That’s just wrong.

While it does seem that there are a few characters in the choir, I doubt I’ll find the blueprint for Amelia sitting next to me. But maybe the challenge of spot reading music and managing to actually stay in the alto part enough to kick start an obviously dormant part of my brain.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll see if I can somehow integrate hip checking into the mix. It won’t motivate me, but it will make me happy.

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A break through

I love a great breakthrough. My favourite kind is when I’m writing and the ideas fall in to place and it feels like the story is writing itself.

This breakthrough wasn’t like that. I don’t have a finished manuscript in front of me. The beauty of this breakthrough is that it will let me eventually get to that goal.

I took a break from writing. Well, that’s not completely true. It wasn’t as much a  break as it was giving up. I got completely stuck on “oh my god, do I have an adequate concept.”

I spun. I twisted. I fretted. I didn’t t write. I didn’t move forward.

To be fair, there was also a little matter of my mom ending up in the hospital. Between the back and forth and spending copious time in the depths of fear and worry, I didn’t have the time or energy.

While that’s the truth, I also had to ask myself, “Self, do you have the will?”

I was going to give it another week of laziness, using the fact that we’re at a cottage as an excuse. But then I was left alone for a few hours. The book I’m reading wasn’t calling me. I found the perfect place to study.

Instead of moving ahead to the next competency in the book, I reread the  section on concept. Maybe it’s the fresh air or the fact the sun is finally shining or maybe it’s the rice crispie square I ate with great gusto. What ever the reason, this time I was less uptight about the whole thing. This time different words stood out to me:

“At some point”
“During the process”
“Can’t ever know for sure”

You mean I don’t have to be perfect?

With that breakthrough, that bit of permission, I could move forward. I was able to see that I can’t be married to every element of my original idea and came up with a couple of ways  to improve my concept. The rest will continue to unfold. I’m early on and need to take my time – as long as I keep going.


A place of inspiration

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