A Home Like No Other

jocko barnjocko and the jam

A barn, covered in overgrown vegetation. Overgrown, yet perfectly placed. Behind it, a garden that has seen thousands of strawberries, beans, and other great things. Grown by my Grandparents.

The home on the property has some age to it. With all the work it needed it still was a great place with a great amount of room. You would walk into the front doors and end up right into the kitchen. Most of the time when I walked in as a kid, there was something cooking, baking or a fresh pot of tea was made. There really was always something.

Most times I found my Grandparents in the adjoining dining room. Other times, in the nearby living room. The dining room was literally the central meeting place for friends and visitors to meet. In the photo you see here of my Grandfather and myself, we are in that room. It was a spacious place. It was not a kitchen but you could host a kitchen party in there that would attract the whole town and country.

In the year or so leading up to my departure from Nova Scotia in 99, that place became a regular lunch-time meeting place for myself and the Grandparents. There, we jointly presided over my studies, my writing, politics and tv shows. Among other things. I was in college classes for half mornings leading up to my leaving, so I usually stopped in there on the way home because they were always around.  Those discussions were grand and glorious. Full of spirited debate and great exchanges of humour. I’ve rarely written about what a master improviser my Grandfather was. He did not even realize how brilliant he was until hours or even days after he delivered the goods with his humour.

If I ever showed up later in the day or in the early evening, we always convened our discussions to the living room. The high ceilings and spacious seating made it a great lounging area. My Grandfather kept his stereo in there and if he did not have the television on, there was music in the air. Usually that music was accompanied by his singing voice.

I miss his singing voice. I miss his humorous cracks which were delivered in his fog thick Scottish accent.

The top floor of the home looked cramped from the hallways. Many were always surprised to see how large the bedrooms were as they headed the short distance to the washroom. It contained a decent amount of storage space for the things that piled up over the years.

The basement was home to a unique workshop that my Grandfather proudly retreated to when moved to do so. As a kid and even into my adult years, I found a constant collection of small radios in various states of repair. These were nestled in between pictures of old cars and other mementos of the past.

Somewhere I have more photos. Somewhere I have enough pictures to justify my narrative descriptions. After this house was my Grandfather’s, it was my Dad’s. For too short a time, it was his.

I will never see the interior of this house again and happily accept that. The incredible memories are worth millions. It was a home sitting in the grand central of a small-town built on industry. It was a home of memories, merriment and humorous mayhem.

It was a home like no other.

@WriterDann

Old Blue Dog

Blue Dog

It became a regular thing once I left home. Every time I flew back. Same thing. Whenever I would drive down to my Dad’s rural Nova Scotia home. The same drill. 

Pull into the driveway with the rental car. Get out and look over at the doghouse. It was a great work of craftsmanship nestled underneath a towering maple tree, looking like it was going to topple over down the hill. Maybe take part of the house with it. It was painted to match the light baby blue of the house. It blended in well.

Sometimes he was hiding. I would call out his name and watch him slowly exit to walk towards me.

“Blue!”

He was named after the various dogs of the same name that Hockey Legend Don Cherry had over many years. A great name that anyone would remember.

As he approached me his tail would start swinging. In his still-younger days he would completely lose his mind at the sight of anyone he knew. I could be gone a year or more. Sometime I was.

Old friends reuniting.

I would let him off his chain and he would follow me into the house. Even if Dad was home we would still head into the front room of the house. On the way there, I would pass the fridge and grab a beer, or put the kettle on for tea. I would feed him even if it was a little before his dinner time. It didn’t matter.

We would spend hours in that front room and look for a good game on TV or watch an old movie. Good times with an old friend. If I was ever to stay the night he would never leave my old room. He would follow me in and crash out on the floor for the whole night. Never moving until sunrise.

Blue was a husky mix that followed Dad home one night during a walk. I remember the night he brought him in the house even though I was not there. I was visiting a cousin in New Brunswick and on the phone with my brother. Mid-conversation I heard some chaos.

“Dad let some dog in the house!”

I was splitting my time between my Mom’s apartment in town and Dad’s old house. When I arrived back I was rather excited to meet the new addition. Dad still was not sure if he was going to be kept or if he was going to be adopted out. It was a tough call. A few difficult weeks went by where he had to be trained a bit. After all, he still was a pup. By the time a month went by it was pretty much a certainty that he was going to be a member of the family.

I remember many long late nights staying up with him because he would not settle. He would hear something outside and want to go after it. He needed a lot of work to be trained to settle in to a normal and less chaotic life. He was a pup that was allowed to run and roam freely. He was not fed properly if at all. It was a drastic sudden change for him to have some structure and people constantly around.

Somehow it all worked out.

Later on into my teens I began to spend more time in town. Still I would make regular and frequent trips down to see Blue. Sometimes I was truly there just to see him. Even my Dad knew that and was cool with it.

Long after I left Nova Scotia those trips down to the house became more important. I wanted to see him first more than anything or anybody. Every time I left it was always difficult. As he aged I would always think more about if I would ever see him again.

During the last year or so of his life things were a bit difficult for him. Dad would run home after work to ensure he was fed before running back out the door to tend to the needs of my Grandparents. Their own health was starting to slip and he did a lot for them. Some of his relatives would come down to tend to Blue when they could. Dad would still get back home in plenty of time to have at least a couple of hours with him before calling it a night.

While I mean no disrespect to my Dad’s memory, as my brother and I were both gone I used to worry constantly that he was not getting enough attention. I was told multiple times by Dad and some of his relatives that he was, but I never always bought those explanations. I missed Blue more and more.

One night Dad called to tell me something was wrong with Old Blue. He seemed very weak and unstable. Somehow later on that night he had calmed down and was back to his normal self so Dad did not worry.

Two days later Dad called again but this time it was with rough news. The night before after he had taken Blue in and went through his usual evening routine, he seemed really off again and suddenly. He laid out on the floor and seemed really warm. Dad put a fan in front of him to help cool him off.  He was getting ready to take him to the Vet but before he could even get a phone call in to the clinic, Old Blue had passed away. Right on the living room floor where he and Dad spent hours together.

Dad was crushed. The guilt consumed him for some time. He always felt responsible and that maybe he could have saved his life by doing something two nights before. He waited until the next day to tell us because he was too grief-stricken.

On my first trip back after his passing, I will never forget driving down to the old house and pulling into the driveway just like normal. I got out of the car and started walking towards his dog house. It was still there. His chain was still attached to the house and stretched out completely towards the patio. As if I expected him to magically appear, I called out his name again.

“Blue!”

I waited a few irrational seconds. It sank in. He was gone. I picked up his chain, disconnected the end from the structure and headed indoors.

Over time as I reflect back on Old Blue’s life, I dwell on what a wonderful rescue story he was. He seemed to enter our lives at the perfect time. He was given a home and a family. He gave us life lessons and loyalty. This photo now hangs in my home office. I look at it every few days but not with a sense of loss.

Rather, with a sense of love for an old loyal friend.

@WriterDann

Backing Up Work & a Story of 10 Lost Pages

pens

What a week. Here is how I started out my previous Monday.

Working from the desktop in my office I was looking for an older Excel file that for whatever reason, I needed to access. I guess because it was Monday and I was lacking in coffee or tea, I decided to start cleaning out files.

My search for this particular file ended up resulting in nothing being found. As I began to delete a few folders that literally had nothing in them, I deleted a file that was created earlier in the year which contained two pieces which will form part of my next short collection.

Brilliant…..Brilliantly Daft.

As I have spent most of this week beating the living daylights out of myself over this. These stories were two really good pieces that I was rather proud of. So in the coming days my plan is to recreate them and build on the error.

This is an opportunity to make the two pieces much better than they were. I still have the ideas and premises that formed them. Thankfully, it will be relatively easy to crib these two pieces back together. Meanwhile there is the issue of doing all I can to prevent this from happening again.

When I wrote Planned UnParenthood and Throwing Dice, I copied the files every few days to a flash drive and a secondary location on the computer hard drive. Another place I could have backed up my files was to my web mail program. This is a no-brainer when you think of the benefits. If you use a web mail program you can customize so much on it that it can be transformed into a useful file backup system. Provided you continually change your security settings in order to maximize securing of your content, it can work really well.

If you are working on a major project you can open a file folder with the name of the project as its’ header. As you email yourself copies of the most recent documents, you can delete previous ones or save them as different versions in the event you want to keep multiple backups of work. For freelance writers, note that it is equally critical that client work is backed up as often as your own creative pages.

It really is a simple solution that is cost-effective and practical. The 10 pages I lost could have been 100. Representing several hours of writing and editing that may have been lost for good. Mistakes can be made. Learn from them and build yourself to be better in the writing biz. 

 

Nova Scotia SPCA Supply Donations & Animal Rescue Awareness, Post-Storm.

The winter storms of recent have certainly taken their toll on the province. The harsh weather can have a significant impact on animal rescue shelters and their abilities to process and approve adoptions.

Anyone in the HRM that shops at the Costco in Dartmouth Crossing, please consider adding some supplies for the Provincial Shelter on nearby Scarfe Court. Have a look at the list of supplies that are needed at the shelter through their website at http://spcans.ca/branches/provincial-shelter.html

If you reside near the other branches, contact them to see what their most urgent supply needs are.

In addition to the NSSPCA, other groups in the province continue to need assistance. Hope For Wildlife has successfully drawn attention to the effects that the harsh weather has caused for the wildlife population. Their important work continues to draw international attention and is worth fully supporting.

Read on at http://www.hopeforwildlife.net

Give what you can, when you can.

@WriterDann

Looking at Longevity

Pictou Harbour Lyons Brook Office writing fountain pen

There is only one true answer to how a person can continue to be in the writing business. It is to keep working. This is a theme I have constantly run on these pages for years now. There is the simplified answer. Keep working. Keep creating. Seek opportunity. When it comes calling, answer the phone, respond to the email, open the doors.

The frustrating days are sometimes worth it. Build on them. Move on and feel armed with new information from those experiences. Keep rejection notes as a way to build confidence in work.

Create something for the sake of writing something.  Write a single word in really large printing on a notebook.

If you haven’t laughed in a while, find something funny and then write about why that particular thing is funny. I have learned much about the healing power of humour in the last few years.

Keep connecting with other writers. Respond with feedback on something they have written. Even if they do not respond back it is an exercise in writing all by itself. Many writers are now taking more time to respond to reader feedback. Being able to have an audience is one thing, keeping that audience is a whole other challenge.

Look at your health and be mindful of it. I spent most of my teens and early twenties eating a steady diet of junk food and drinking buckets of soda drinks every single day. Being cranked out on sugar and junk food is not healthy to begin with. I feel that healthier living has helped improved my productivity and the quality of my work.

I have watched many talented people pursue this business with intensive passion only to give up and walk away after a single disappointment. I refuse to fall into that mentality.

So I say to you if you are struggling. Keep going. It is worth it.

Writer First, Accidental Activist Maybe

book Cover

When Planned UnParenthood Creating a Life Without Procreating was released in 2012 it was with the intent to educate, inform and entertain. I felt this was my very first workable book idea worthy of finalizing and finishing. The book challenges several stereotypical views that a generally pro-natalist society has of those choosing no children.

Among those challenges, were the notion that families without children are often failed to be recognized as families. Another, the notion that one should have children in order to increase the chances you will have guaranteed caretakers in the later stages of life.

In the book I spoke about these things and other ideas from the perspective of a childfree male. Within a few weeks of the book’s release I realized my book was among the first (if not the first) of its’ kind. As my writing permits I have promoted more positive things about choosing no children from my perspective.

Winning International Childfree Man of The Year last summer was certainly an honour. I appreciated that this book was saluted for what it is and was meant to be. If I were to be called an activist I would be fine with it although the title does not reverberate with my identity. If I was to consider myself an activist it would be more in relation to the many animal rescue groups that I have promoted through Twitter @WriterDann.  Perhaps I have accidentally become an activist for childfree people without fully intending to end up with that tag.

I consider myself a writer first.  

In the childfree discussions I am always willing to look at it from all perspectives. Writing about the sheer heartbreak many people have felt at not being able to have children opened my eyes to a forgotten demographic. The few words I penned in the book devoted to adoption were well-researched points that needed to be said. In particular, I still am troubled and deeply offended by the notion that some people still feel that the LGBT community are not capable of being good parents. The countries that allow these families to adopt children deserve a salute.

In all of the press I have done to date on this book it has been a pleasure to discuss the wide range of sub-topics in connection to the choice of not having children. Writing about this lifestyle choice has given me tremendous insight into how challenging parenting can be. The feedback from readers has been overall very positive. Parents who have read the book continue to tell me that “they get it now”.

The book is destined to have a very long shelf-life. So my work in having discussions on the topic is far from over. Even as I work on other things something always seems to come up in relation to this book.

I would call that a great sign of longevity in the business.

Planned UnParenthood is available at Amazon and other online retailers worldwide.  

amzn.to/PUJsmQ Amazon U.S.

amzn.to/ZZeNed Amazon Canada

amzn.to/STYwBd Amazon UK

Restless

Pictou Harbour Lyons Brook

Sometimes you want to be able to slow your mind down. It is annoying at times, especially when you want your thoughts to turn into rewarding ideas. Even getting those inspirational moments down to paper, page and screen is the actual reward. Is it a cure for being restless? Wish I had the definitive answer. The answer really is different for everyone.

On one of those really restless days I am willing to bet I could turn in a work day of seven to eight hours straight with minimal breaks. As everyone in this business knows, one idea always spawns into many more. I cannot even begin to tell you how many pages I have pulled where I can relive the experience of one of the brainstorms I weathered. Where one thing turned into ten and ten more turned into fifty. It has been a great way to find and figure out some older material.

On the majority of my restless days it is a period of working in the early hours before heading off to my commitments during the week. I then spend at least a half hour of working through that restless feeling before landing at the day job. One of the challenges of being at the day job is working to shelve the writing mindset until a free and clear break in the day. When it comes time to take lunch I become the person with a restless writing mind again. Same thing come the end of the day. The day job work day comes to an end. Pick myself up, head home to all the things I do outside of the day job.

And become the restless writer again. Instead of fighting being restless, it is better to work with it. I am working to find balance in this regard. Working more in the business helps because it is something I enjoy.

Over the course of the coming weeks I intend to bring back more of a balance to ease restlessness. Having music on in my home office again. Picking up my own musical talents again (I play bass rather well). Once the weather clears, find an outdoor basketball court nearby and enjoy one of my favourite sports again. Read more, travel more and do much more.

So if you are a restless, how do you find balance?