“How did you get started writing?” is a question I hear often. I believe my entire life has prepared me for this retirement career. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to earn a B.A. in Psychology, Masters in Educational Counselling, Masters of Divinity, a certificate in Spiritual Direction. With this I enjoyed nineteen years in Parish Ministry.
The message of my writing is that accepting, respecting, loving one another is a big step towards inner peace and world peace.
My life journey is exciting and rewarding. I think of writing as giving birth. The seed of inspiration is planted, the growing of the manuscript within my head and on my computer, the hard labour of editing, and finally a child is born. After this comes the work of publishing. What you see in the library on my book page are my book children created with love. My husband, Tom, tells people that I failed retirement and he is right...
At the moment, I am responding to requests for more books from people across this country. My readers of my first two novels, Fireweed and To Begin Again, have become attached to Renée, her dad, Steve and the Catalpa Creek community. So I have begun the research for novel number three in the Catalpa Creek series. Women across the United Church have asked for Dipping Your Toes 2 (another resource for leading devotions). I’ve also been gathering together my short stories for a new short story collection. Hopefully, that will be on Amazon this spring. And always there is my blog and my newspaper column.
A new project is writing short stories for my friend, Angie. She is preparing a music and storytelling concert this fall. (Medieval Stories and Harp) Tom is totally correct. I haven't retired and probably I never will. Maybe I’ll still be writing when I have moved on to eternal life. Only God knows the answer to that.
In May of 2019, the alumni of Emmanuel College, Victoria College, U of T, honoured me with a service award for the contribution I have made to the faith life of children and adults across the United Church through my writing and my parish ministry. In this highly competitive world, to be recognized for my work is amazing. I was and still am truly grateful.
My childhood was blessed by two mothers. A few years ago I wrote my story and titled “Two Mothers, Twice blessed”. That story has been published twice. First, a shortened version appears in the May 2015 publication of “The Observer” magazine, now called “Broadview.” In 2019 the original long version was published in the “Spirit of the Hills IV” anthology. In essence my childhood and my whole life has had ups and downs like everyone else. What is unique is that I have enjoyed being a part of two families in which I am totally loved.
Tom likes to say that he never grew up. This is the story of me after my divorce – the second half of my life.
After many years of a single life, I knew I wanted a life companion. I loved my career. I’d travelled. I’d been to Bali, Thailand, New Zealand and Israel. I’d climbed mountains and ridden camels. Still, I needed a dance partner, and I wanted a companion for my later years. Finding a suitable mate after you’ve been divorced and reached the age of fifty is not easy, especially for a woman. Add to that my vocation and you can see my difficulty.
I remember a conversation with an attractive man that took place as we danced:
“What do you do for a living?” he asked.
I tried to keep it light as I said, “Oh, I’m a United Church minister.”
“A what?” he exclaimed as he pushed me out to arms length. The music ended, and he steered me back to my table and disappeared into the crowd.
After that experience, I dreamed up a truthful, but less intimidating answer to that inevitable question concerning my occupation. When asked what I did for a living, I would smile sweetly and say, “Oh, I’m middle management for a world wide corporation.” Somehow, men were impressed with that answer.
Even with a whole congregation rooting for me, there just didn’t seem to be any desirable eligible men to choose from. Consequently, fifteen years ago, I took a deep breath, joined the modern world and placed my profile on an internet dating service. I called myself “Lover of Life”. Why? Well, boredom does not exist in my dictionary. For me, life is exciting, and I want to live it as fully as possible. If there was a man out there who could swallow my career, had a strong faith, loved to dance, and didn’t smoke, I wanted him to know that I wasn’t a couch potato or negative. I added tall, and lots of hair to my long wish list.
Window shopping for men on the internet was fun. I had all the pleasure of looking them over without having to worry about embarrassing them, or me. It took more than two years of meeting and dating before I met Tom. Now after sixteen years of marriage I know he was worth the wait and the search. He’s everything I prayed for and more. For me he is the sign of God’s Grace I needed in order to forgive myself for being divorced. He’s also an illustration of God’s sense of humour. Tom has lots of hair at my eye level, where it spills over his open collar shirts, but not much on top, where I can’t see it anyway.
The first time I got married, at the age of nineteen, I thought I knew everything about loving and relationships. Twenty-seven years later, when that marriage ended, I realized that I knew very little about anything. Twelve years as a single person, five spent receiving counseling, prepared me to try marriage again. This time, I let God do the choosing. God obviously has good taste. My Tom is fabulous. He cooks, he dances, he’s my best friend and a wonderful lover. I am blessed.
I can hear some of you saying, “Right, your new relationship isn’t stressed by children or work.” Not true. Tom and I came together as packages. At this point our blended family includes 5 adult children and their 3 spouses, 9 grandchildren and two more partners, and one great grandchild on the way.
Blending families isn’t easy and yet for us it’s been good. We followed the motto: Love me, love my crowd. We focused on our love for our children and our desire to be happy together. We prayed a lot and waited patiently for acceptance of us as a couple.
Together, we’ve weathered a multitude of family gatherings, shivered at hockey games and broiled at rugby games. Tom has become truly grandpa to my crowd and I’m grandma to his. For all of us, the love is mutual.
As for work, well we both worked full time at the beginning. Tom retired first, myself two years later. Well no, that’s not quite true either. I just changed my focus. Instead of a whole congregation of people to care for, I now write, publish and sell books, but not alone. Tom has accepted the Jan package totally, even the writing. Besides being my biggest fan, he’s my editor and my support.
Friends are precious. How could any of us survive without our friends? Some of you may be like me, in that you’ve moved a lot in your lives. Over the years, I’ve said a lot of tearful goodbyes. One friendship, has endured. I have shared laughter and tears with Richard and Nancy Miller for more than forty years (Tom only seventeen). Everywhere I moved, Nancy’s letters and their visits followed me. Sometimes they made the biggest effort at maintaining our friendship. Sometimes I did. Always they were there. They carried me through the divorce, when I knew they were hurting too. My former husband was their friend as well. We’ve walked together in grief with the death of our parents, and their son, Jason. We are God’s sanctuary for each other. We laugh, cry, eat and play dominoes. They live in Montreal, a long way from Peterborough but our friendship continues.
I encourage you to work hard at keeping your close friendships. Don’t let today’s transient lifestyle rob you of the blessing of lifetime relationships. Friends are priceless just like family.
For Tom and I there’s lots of overlap between friends and church family. Sometimes when you’re busy with small children and work outside the home, you don’t have time to search out friends as you settle into a new place. As I moved from community to community, I found lasting friendships within the church. The commonality of values and love for God that we share within the church family, offers a foundation for strong relationships.
My friendship with Rich and Nancy started in the church. We were the established family, when Richard came from the United States to be our pastor.
We waited excited at the church manse, along with other representatives of the church family, to welcome them when they arrived in Porcupine, Ontario. Three small children tumbled out of their car, followed by an exhausted Nancy. Richard drove up in the U-haul truck a few minutes later. My three kids, just a couple of years older, added to the chaos.
My advice for anyone needing friends is find a church family, even if you think you have no faith at all. The friendships waiting there for you are priceless treasures. At the church you will find, support and caring, fun and laughter, and if you open your heart, you will discover the joy of faith.