Monday, November 30, 2015

Celebrating L.M. Montgomery with Kindred Spirits

For several years now, I've wanted to pay a little tribute to Lucy Maud Montgomery, one of my long-time favourite authors. And what better date than today, for it's Miss Montgomery's birthday. Born in Prince Edward Island, Canada, on November 30, 1874, she is undoubtedly one of Canada's most famous authors, and she is certainly most known for her creation of Anne of Green Gables, first published in 1908.

I love the Anne books, but I have also enjoyed reading L.M.M.'s published journals and letters, and various biographies about her life and work. Over my lifetime she has been an inspiration to me in more ways than one.

As you know from past posts, I'm seriously getting into the spirit of Christmas these days. I've been dusting off my small collection of seasonal books and stories in anticipation of some cozy and thoughtful fireside and bedtime reading. I found my copy of  Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories -- it was originally meant as a gift for someone a long time ago, but somehow it stayed on my own shelves. Funny thing that...
"We have sent for a lot of new books for our Literary Society library here and when they come I’m simply going on a spree. I shall read all night and all day. I’m a book-drunkard, sad to say, and though I earnestly try to curb my appetite for reading I never met with much success." ~ L.M. Montgomery, March 1905 letter

This collection has 16 seasonal short stories, most of them originally written by L.M.M. for publication in various magazines. Happily, two favourite chapters from the Anne novels are included: Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves (Anne of Green Gables) and Katherine Brooke Comes to Green Gables (Anne of Windy Poplars). I just read these two and enjoyed them all over again.

* * * * *

 Last year I was invited by the editor of FellowScript, a writer's magazine published by Canadian writer's organization InScribe, to write a short piece about the impact L.M. Montgomery had on my life growing up and beyond. The article was published in the August 2014 issue.

Today I'm delighted to share that article with you as we mark the day and offer gratitude for the life of this gifted woman. She touched so many with her writings and outlook on life. And I'm so grateful for what she gave to our world ... and to me through her writings.

University of Guelph Library, Archival and Special Collections

How Lucy Maud Montgomery Touched My Life
by Brenda Leyland
originally published in FellowScript, August 2014

In 1908, when Lucy Maud Montgomery published her first novel, she couldn’t possibly have known that nearly sixty years later, a nine-year-old girl would sit enraptured as she listened to her fourth grade teacher read it aloud to the class. She couldn’t possibly have known that as the story unfolded, seeds were being planted in this girl’s heart and mind. Indeed, how could she possibly know that I am that girl and that, after all these years, the story of Anne of Green Gables remains as fresh to me as it was the first time I heard it? Certainly, Miss Montgomery couldn’t know, but nonetheless that delightful story still resonates for me. And, not for me alone, as millions of readers world-wide are just as captivated; children and adults alike are drawn to Anne spelled with an ‘e’. Even Mark Twain called her “the dearest, most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice (in Wonderland)”.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (affectionately known to me as LMM) lived in an era quite different to the times we live in today. But the themes of her writing have proved to be timeless. They are full of the details of life that transcend time and space: love, faith, family, relationships, career, health, and the desire to find happiness. The life experiences that shaped her writing career are familiar to us as readers, and her stories resound again and again as each new generation discovers them. Anne lives on, never grows old, and never ceases to be an inspiration. She has become a voice, giving sound to thoughts and yearnings of the heart that might otherwise remain silent.

As a nine-year-old, I was truly captivated by this red-haired, imaginative girl. Like Anne, I longed for a bosom friend. I, too, wanted interesting adventures. The vivid descriptions of cherry orchards and lakes of shining waters fueled my own imagination, and I longed to be transported from my little prairie farm in Alberta to the sea and red dirt of Prince Edward Island. As I grew and matured into a young woman, the kinship I felt with Anne also progressed. I became curious about Anne’s creator, and began to read everything I could put my hands on that was written by her and about her. Envision my delight to discover LMM and I shared common life experiences such as growing up in small agricultural communities where church life was the centre of spiritual and social activity, working as young career girls, and then marrying later in life. These served to deepen my affinity both with Anne and LMM. But more than the common experiences, I found the themes in her life and writings began to provide me with answers and insights to the issues and concerns of my own young heart. So often I would find in her writings the same things I’d been pondering about. She taught me to appreciate the joy and beauty of my world, regardless of happy or unhappy circumstances. And, how can I ever forget the way God brought me through a time of inner healing by using her stories to reveal the wound in my heart.

Now as a mature woman, a writer by choice, I look back to my younger self, and I’m so grateful for LMM’s influence and her faithfulness to her calling to write. Whether I’m pursuing the art of letter-writing inspired by reading her own published correspondence, or I’m writing articles or working on a memoir, there she is … a mentor from afar. I remember sitting, pen and paper in hand, trying to capture something of the twilight beauty of a long ago summer evening, and becoming aware that I wanted to write, and that I wanted to write just like Lucy Maud Montgomery. She changed my life.
Wishing you a beautiful last day of November,

Linking with Mosaic Monday

Friday, November 27, 2015

Five on Friday Christmas Crafting Corner

1.  Making felt hearts for Christmas

A couple of years ago I found a picture of some Scandinavian felt tree ornaments and I fell in love with them. I wanted to make some as I loved the contrast of the red and white  -- it's so striking, isn't it? But, I tucked the idea away as I had neither the time nor energy to tackle even such a simple project during those years hubby and I did the part-time night cleaning job. And since we're done with that nonsense now, I felt this is the year to work play and create.

So, for the past several weeks I've been doing a little every day -- I now have 16 sweet hearts. In the mosaic above is a sampling. Some are destined to be mailed to friends and family, others to be tucked into local Christmas cards. A couple for door knob hangers and such. I was pretty rusty at first, but like playing the piano, practice makes perfect, and stitching is also a little like riding a bike; you might be a little wobbly at first, but once you learn it, you don't really forget.

I learned to embroider when I was a girl. My mom showed me how and probably my grandma too. My very first attempt was a sampler that came all the way from my Aunty in Germany one Christmas. I was eight or nine and so excited to get this surprise. I must not have asked my mom for too much help though (probably trying to be independent) because I didn't realize that the embroidery cotton bundles come in strands of eight and that, according to the pattern you use, you might use one strand to do something intricate or two or three strands to do something like filling in, but you rarely if ever use all eight strands at once. I used all eight strands for all the stitches -- so you may well imagine my very first attempt was quite thick and furry. I still have the piece tucked into a memorabilia book.

 2. My two favourite stitches

In the process of time, I did learn to do it better, and really enjoyed embroidering pillowcases and tablecloths and tea towels. One day years later I realized that one of my most favourite stitches to work is the blanket stitch. I love the rhythm that comes as I weave my needle back and forth, watching the thread create its little pattern along an edge.

And I really like making French knots, because ever since I can remember, I was fascinated to think that wrapping the yarn a couple of times near the tip of the needle and then putting the needle down the same hole (or very nearly) from which your first needle came up and finding this sweet little knot in its place ... well, it was wondrous. Still is.

Perfection is not the goal,
contentment and the joy of creating is the intention. ~ BL

3.  I want to make some of these

Isn't this little felt Christmas tree cute? I love it. And it has to have the red heart for sure, the white one doesn't really make the same statement in my 'umble opinion. I found this craft here ... I thought I would put away my embroidery needle once the hearts were done, but I'm having so much fun I'm heading straight to the craft store for a bit of green and red felt.

After all, there's a whole month yet till Christmas, and the evenings grow dark early, and sitting by the fireplace is cozy and peaceful ... needle going in, needle coming out. Pearly strands of yarn leaving happy little patterns in their wake ... I should be able to make a handful a little at a time. Perhaps in time even for a wee giveaway treat. wink

 4.  Vintage Tree Ornament Ribbon Cluster


Oh my, I have some of the very same vintage ornaments tucked into little boxes for safe keeping. I love old fashioned delicate glass tree ornaments. Perhaps it's because they remind me of my earliest childhood memories of our family Christmas trees -- usually a spruce tree in those days.

I found a wonderful article listing more than a dozen Creative Ideas Using Ornaments. And, when I saw this cluster of ornaments tied to satin ribbons, I knew that's what I wanted to do. I don't have a big collection of vintage ornaments, but what a clever way to display them if they aren't being used on the tree (which does happen, as I don't put the exact same ornaments on every year -- do you?). This would be fun hanging from the front entry chandelier or over the dining table. Or maybe both.

5.  Vintage Colouring Pages

source unknown

Since the post is about Christmas craft today, I decided to include as our No. 5 for our Five on Friday these cute vintage colouring pages. I know colouring books for adults are very popular these days, but I have to be honest, I don't like them near as well as these simply drawn pictures from days of old.

It's because, at Christmas, I just love being reminded of my early childhood memories, and these two little girls remind me of my old colouring books ... every page filled with something wonderful to work on. I already know what colour that ribbon will be ... red or maybe pink.


These lovely poinsettias were found at The Graphics Fairy. My fingers are itching for a bright red crayon to fill those berries -- you? Might have to print off a few pages and invite some friends for a tea and colouring afternoon.

That's my Five on Friday this week. As you can see, I'm definitely in the Christmas mood. After all, we've got snow and I'm listening to carols and humming the la-la-la songs.  And we've been eating Christmas cake with tea.

Wishing you a beautiful weekend...

Linking with Five on Friday

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Season Kick Off Giveaway Winners

Woke up to a day that totally felt like winter this morning. We had snow yesterday and this morning I could see the crisp full moon slowly, slowly trailing off into the 'sunset'. And as dawn brought the sunrise, I could tell by looking at the pale, pale skies that it must be cold out.  And, yes, it was (-19C aka -2F) -- certainly the lowest we've seen so far this year. With such a frosty feeling outside, it seems the perfect foil for a cozy ambiance inside where we have our Seasonal Kickoff Giveaway Draw for Jacquie Lawson goodies.

Without further ado ... well, maybe a drum roll please, here are our three winners:

Gift One.  Victorian Theme e-Advent Calendar
  The Winner is Karen @ Beatrice Euphemie
Woohoo, Karen!

 Gift Two. Christmas Market e-Advent Calendar
The Winner is Sandi @ Rose Chintz Cottage
Yippee, Sandi!

Gift Three. Gift Membership to Jacquie Lawson Website
The Winner is Lynn Marie @ The Morton Street Project
Wonderful, Lynn Marie!

CONGRATULATIONS to Karen, Sandi, and Lynn Marie! You are in for a real treat. I'll be popping over to your blogs and leaving you a note for your email address -- then I'll have Jacquie Lawson website send your gift to you in time for December 1st.

Consolation Prezzie One
An E-Christmas Card by Jacquie Lawson

Now for those of you who entered the draw and didn't win, there is something special for each of you too. I'm just as tickled to send you one of Jacquie Lawson's gorgeous Christmas e-cards. Her cards are exquisite and almost as fun to receive as the advent calendar -- I'd love to choose one that I think you'll enjoy.

I'll check your blogs for your emails, but if I don't have a way of contacting you, please send me your email (see the sidebar for my e-address). Also, please note I'm not collecting anyone's emails for any mailing list -- we're friends here so it's just for personal use.

Consolation Prezzie Two
(if you haven't seen this yet)
Restoring the Joy of Christmas PDF Book

Consolation Little Prezzie Three
Restoring the Joy of Christmas Bookmark


The holiday season here on It's A Beautiful Life has now begun, and  just as I like it -- making people happy and using one of my favourite love languages -- gifts!

Have a wonderful day -- watch for your prezzies now. Send me your email if it's not online.

Happy Day with hugs,
And a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Art Show

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?
~ Vincent Van Gogh

I like many of the paintings by famous Dutch post-Impressionist artist, Vincent Van Gogh. So when Hubby and I learned a Van Gogh Museum Edition Tour was coming to a city near us, we made definite plans to take it in. After all, Van Gogh is one of the world's most celebrated artists, with such famous works as Vase with Sunflowers, The Starry Night and Irises, St. Remy to his credit. Who knows when we'd get to visit the whole collection at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

So off we went one afternoon not that long ago. We arrived at the entrance where the friendly fellow at the desk engaged in a little light conversation as we inquired after tickets. He looked up at us and said to Rick, "I see you brought your daughter with you." We all chuckled, and he proceeded to ask how I got to be out of school since it was the middle of the afternoon. A little more repartee as we finally got our tickets and the info that a little tour and lecture would be happening in about an hour from then. He suggested we could do a quick tour on our own, go have tea, and then return in time for the tour/lecture as our tickets were good for the whole day. So that's what we did.

Feeling refreshed from a nice cup of tea, we arrived back at the entry of the art show, the same fellow was there. I assumed after such a cheery conversation of not that long ago, he'd certainly remember us and so we wondered if we needed to show him our tickets again. He shuffles and puts his head down, say he's not so good with faces, but he does remember my jacket ... I was wearing a lovely teal blue-green leather jacket which he said really caught his eye as he loved the colour.

Ha ... as we went inside I wasn't sure if I should be offended or not. After all that and now he says doesn't really remember faces but he remembers my jacket. Were we a teeny bit disappointed? Of course we were. I guess I was hoping I was bit more memorable than my jacket.

Yet what could we do but laugh? And I still chuckle as I think of it now. In spite of that little turn out, we enjoyed the tour very much.

Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds

Although it's a lesser known painting, I must admit one of my favourites by this artist is the one above: Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds. I love all that blue splashed across the canvas as I truly love big open landscapes where skies are filled with light and dark as storm clouds gather -- must be the prairie girl in me, I guess.

Did you know that Van Gogh began painting in his mid-twenties, and in a single decade produced more than 2,100 artworks? That makes my head spin, and I feel a moment of lament that some people are so very focused and able to accomplish so much in so little time, yet I am not one of them.

Of course, Mr. Van Gogh did say once, "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process." He had admitted himself into an asylum at some point and he dealt with dark times in his life. Apparently the verdict is still out on whether or not he actually committed suicide.  So maybe I don't want to be quite that focused.

Almond Blossom

Another painting I love is Almond Blossom. One often sees this wonderful piece reproduced on mugs, calendars, journals, and even t-shirts. I love these colours and the joyful feeling this piece gives. I also love the journal with this painting on the covers. What fun to write in. Some people have also created fabric using this pattern and so I was well pleased to find a pretty cotton t-shirt in a ShopBBC catalog.

And, so that's what happened on the way to the art show and while we were at the art show. A lovely afternoon enjoying the beauty and creativity of one special man. By the way, I read a book with some of his published letters and it was a fascinating read. I loved the peek inside this man, whose life and art has touched many ... I'm grateful for what he shared with the world in his short life.

Wishing you all a beautiful rest of the day,

Linking up with Judith on Mosaic Monday

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Five with Free Stuff and Giveaways

Hope you brought your mug of hot something with you, as today we've got a few things on the go here on our blog.   

Hubby asked me yesterday morning if I would look up the recipe for the fruitcake we're baking this year. He suggested that he measure out the fruit and nuts and get them ready while I went off to meet a friend for lunch. As you might imagine, it didn't take me more than a nano-second to nod my assent. Oh yes, please, that would be lovely. 

Today, I went out to buy a couple of new loaf pans for the baking of the Christmas cake, and by the time I got home, hubby was already measuring and mixing the rest of the ingredients to make the batter. So I quickly cut up the parchment to line the new pans and in no time those loaves were baking in the oven.

Oh my, and then the fragrance began to waft up and out of that oven ... swirling around our noses in lemony, fruity, vanilla-y enticement. Two hours later the cakes were done and cooling in the pans. I must admit I was sorely tempted to follow my mom's example when it comes to sampling fruitcake. Her favourite way is to slice off the crust, skip right over the aging process, and eat it while still warm from the oven.

Below is the recipe for Light Fruit Cake -- we call it Marie's fruitcake as it's her recipe, a friend of my sister. The recipe has been a part of our family tradition now for years.

  1. a little Christmas fruit cake baking with recipe

Marie’s Light Fruitcake

3 cups light raisins
2 cups mixed glazed fruit (one tub)
6 slices candied pineapple, chopped
1/3 cup chopped orange peel
1/3 cup chopped lemon peel
1 cup green glazed cherries
1 cup red glazed cherries
1 ½ cups whole blanched almonds
1 ½ cups pecan halves
1 cup flour

1 lb butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
10 eggs
rind of one lemon
juice of one lemon
2 tsp almond flavoring
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Prepare 3 loaf pans – line with 2 alternating layers of parchment paper and grease. Mix all fruit and nuts with one cup flour.

Cream butter with sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in flavorings and lemon rind and juice. Combine flour, salt and baking powder. Add to creamed mixture, stir well. Mix in fruit and mix well. Divide batter between 3 pans.

Bake at 275 F for 2 – 2 ½ hours, or until toothpick comes clean. Cool in pans. When cool, remove loaves from pans and brush with brandy. Wrap in plastic. Ripen for 2-3 weeks, brushing 3 more times with brandy, and then may be frozen.

 2. free Christmas advent pdf book

Last December I offered a little blogging Advent series on restoring the joy of Christmas. This year I've turned the blog posts into a PDF book so that you can download it and even print it off if you want. Just so you know, the book isn't quite the same as the posts -- text has been adjusted, new graphics have been included, and of course, the format and layout are different.

A new blogging friend, JoAnn, was excited to find the series on the advent blog recently -- she was looking forward to reading it during December. And, another long-time reader, after casting her kind editor's eye over the pdf format, remarked that even though she'd read the blog last year, she found it was new and fresh again.

So, I'm excited to offer Restoring the Joy of Christmas as a little gift this year. I hope you enjoy the thoughts I share and that it indeed adds a joyful addition to your Christmas preparations.

  3. free restoring your joy of Christmas bookmark

To go along with the book, I created a bookmark that you can download and print off onto card stock. Punch a hole at the top and thread a ribbon or cord through it and, voila, you have a cute bookmark for your Christmas reading pile. Is that pile by your bedside or by your reading chair in a cozy corner?

4. enter the giveaway contest for Jacquie Lawson Goodies
December is not that far off anymore, and often people who celebrate Christmas use advent calendars as a delightful way to count down the day until Christmas Day.

That's why it's so much fun to have this giveaway contest in which we are giving away two Jacquie Lawson e-advent calendars: one Victorian Theme and one Christmas Market Theme. Each calendar unveils something new from Dec 1 to 25 -- games, puzzles, delightful animation, and music. You can check out more about these calendars by clicking here.

Last year, I sent one of these advent calendars to a dear friend; she told me how much fun both she and her granddaughter had doing all the puzzles, making snowflakes, and watching for the day's surprise when a new window opened. My friend was pretty excited to see a new one pop into her inbox just a few days ago.

Gift One.  Victorian Theme e-Advent Calendar
 (works on PC, MAC, or iPad)

Gift Two. Christmas Market e-Advent Calendar
(works on PC and Mac only)

Gift Three. Gift Membership to Jacquie Lawson Website

Those of you who have ever received a Jacquie Lawson e-card will understand just how delightful it is to have a membership to her website full of e-cards. A membership to gives you access to all of Jacquie's gorgeous e-cards for a whole year. Talk about surprising all your family and friends with exquisite e-cards for events like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and just because times. To see the kinds of cards available for yourself, click here.

Three gifts = three winners

Giveaway Contest Guidelines

1. There will be three draws, and everyone who leaves a wee comment in this post's comment box is eligible for all three draws. (If you see this on Facebook, you can leave a comment on my Facebook page.)

2. If you want your name added a second time for each draw (ie, a second chance to win), include a comment about what you do to restore your joy of Christmas when you need it.

3. You are welcome to share the contest on your own blog. If you let me know, I'll add your name a third time.
4. Contest closes Wednesday, November 25 at 10:00 am MST (to give time for contest winners to get their calendars before Dec 1). Contest now closed.

5. What else to make Five on Friday and wrap up?

How about a quote? I like this one by Edith Sitwell: “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” 

The evening shadows draw in close so early now. I was out in the town around 2:30 this afternoon and already it felt like a person should be heading home for cozying up beside the fireside. The sun was low in the sky. Oh my. But then it is late-ish November. We forget it's that late in the year when we haven't had the usual cold and snow to remind us.

Today I'm grateful for twinkle lights, the fireplace, hot toddies, and warm cozy covers to snuggle under when I crawl into bed in a few minutes. Oh yes, and a hubby who doesn't mind if I put my cold feet on his.

Wishing you a cozy and beautiful Friday,


Today I'm linking to Five on Friday

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Slowly Shifting Seasons With Giveaways

We had a couple skiffs of snow a few weeks ago -- it was just enough to tease us that winter was coming. Ever since, however, we've had little sign of snow or cold temperatures. Which we're enjoying of course. There was talk of El Nino this winter -- I think we're having some of that right now. Many days are overcast in usual November foggy-like fashion, and afternoons that grow dark early remind us that we're further along in the season than the weather indicates.

Everyone can identify with a fragrant garden, with beauty of sunset, with the quiet of nature, with a warm and cozy cottage. ~ Thomas Kincade

So, I've decided ... it might not be snowing or cold on the outside, but I'm starting to think cozy, warm thoughts on the inside, with lots of twinkle lights everywhere. Today here on our blog we begin the slow shifting away from autumn to winter themes too.

And, here's a heads up that we're hosting a couple of GIVEAWAYS on Friday ... treats to start the weekend and the season off right. On Friday, we'll unveil all.

In the meantime, I hope you've got good things to enjoy and eat, and lovely people to make a fuss over today.

Sending you hugs,

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Monday After The Friday Before

Greg Ortega

 GO. BE. LOVE. The world needs you.
~ Susan Branch

It's Monday morning. Had some difficulty this past weekend wondering what to post. I had other plans and ideas, but somehow it all seemed too ordinary, almost trivial, in light of the horrifying events that took place in Paris just a few days ago.

We watched the news and kept an eye on our Facebook feeds as people around the world shared their responses in light of these tragic losses. So many thoughtful articles and posts.

When we aren't the ones actually involved in the tragedy in someway, we sometimes don't know how to respond to such news. We can feel the sadness and the grief, but our lives carry on. On Saturday morning, I got up and found refuge in my kitchen, pulling out ingredients to make homemade stock that would later become a comforting leek vegetable chicken soup. There's a kind of consolation in doing something ordinary and peaceful when one's mind swirls with images and emotions of such a horrible magnitude.

It was interesting to read one Facebook comment from a woman and her family living in France not so far away from Paris. Their plans had been to go to some of the local Christmas markets on the weekend. Should they still go ... or not? In the end they went. Quiet, subdued, reeling with the reality of the horror fresh in their minds, they went, keeping faith with those who were also there, carrying on with normal life in some small measure, taking comfort in the seasonal displays, buying an ornament or two, even enjoying the antics of some silly dog.

Louis Pellissier

Yesterday, Rick and I went to a lovely coffee spot in town. I caught sight of a local newspaper with photos of the Eiffel Tower. As I sat waiting for Rick to bring our coffee to the table, I looked around. People sitting in corners, some reading, some tapping away on their iPads, others sitting in little groups quietly enjoying each other's company. It seemed quieter and more subdued than sometimes.

And, the thought ran through my mind, we're sitting in this place inhaling the fragrance of fresh ground coffee, listening to the chatter and buzz of coffee grinders ... people had been doing this very thing in Paris just a few days earlier before their world exploded. And lives ended.

There are a thousand thoughts we can think at a time like this. I didn't feel fear in this, but I did note that our lives together with people we love should not be taken for granted. The chances of something like this happening to me personally may be slim, but living in a world fraught with hatred makes us all vulnerable.

So we sip our hot chocolate and nibble away on our cinnamon croissant. We think of these dear people.

We also remember well known words by Mother Teresa ... Every act of love is a work of peace no matter how small. We can't help the people in Paris personally. But, in response, we draw nearer those we do know and love; we hold hands, and we demonstrate little acts of kindness to people we know and folks we don't. Sending out love, not fear or hatred or despair. For where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.

I share a bit of poetry I saw on Facebook ...

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the
whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

by Warsan Shire

Our hearts go out to those whose lives are forever changed, wherever they are in the world.

Wishing you peace...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Little Sister Remembers

When I posted about my Uncle Carl Louis Javorsky the other day, my mom started reminiscing about those days when she was just a little girl and her big brother went off to join the army. Today on Remembrance Day, I asked her if she'd share a few of her memories from that time. And so, it's a real pleasure to have my mom, Evelyn, as my guest blogger today.

Lest we forget those who served in the past and who serve today,


It's Remembrance Day and today I am remembering my big brother, Carl, and how I used to write him letters when he was posted in London, England during the second world war. I was about six or seven years old when he went overseas and he was gone about four years -- that's a long time for a little kid.

My mom packed many, many parcels for him. I remember tins of meat like Prem and lots of fruitcake; I think the fruitcake was good to send, as it wouldn't spoil. I am sure it took a long time to get to London. I hope all those carefully wrapped packages arrived to him safely -- I never asked.

We had a big radio in our kitchen and Dad always listened to the news. I can still hear the booming voice, "THIS IS BBC LONDON!" Lots of news from the war, and I had to be QUIET when the news was on.

Carl wrote letters home and Mom wrote him letters too. I would get my own airmail letters from him. How exciting!! I would always answer him and my letters always started the same: "Dear Carl, How are you? I am fine." I think he always started off his letters to me the same way. We were both very original, as you can see. Not sure what else we wrote. This is interesting, I just remembered his London address: #11 Battersea, London, England.

And while he was stationed in London, he met a nice English girl and married her. My family got the news in the mail one day with pictures of the wedding. Her name was Bette and some time after the war was over, she came to Canada to be with her new husband.

I remember our family was grateful that we never did get one of those black letters in the mail that said "missing in action". Others around us were not so fortunate. Dad went to town one day and heard someone's son was missing in action -- that was hard for my parents.

The years passed and finally the war was over and our Canadian soldiers were coming home. By the train loads. So many trains, every day. We couldn't wait for Carl to get back. The names were all published in the Edmonton Journal newspaper so families knew when they were arriving. Dad went to Onoway every day to get a paper and search the lists for Carl's name. It never appeared.

I can still see Dad bending over the table as he searched and searched but to no avail. Maybe tomorrow, we'd hope. And then the day came, there were no more train loads full of soldiers, everyone had arrived home. Everyone, except Carl. There was no Carl. And no news.

In the middle of this, we'd been invited to a wedding and, on our way there, we stopped at the Eaton's department store in downtown Edmonton. Mom and I went shopping, probably for a wedding gift, and we were to meet Dad at the escalator. As we approached, we saw Dad standing and he was talking to a soldier. Mom ran, and I ran after her crying and hugging for Mom. I had a hard time, I think, I didn't know Carl -- he was so thin -- I hid behind Mom and then Carl grabbed me up in his arms. I do remember him looking at me and saying, "Is this my baby sister?" No doubt I had changed a bit in those years too.

Oh, what a reunion in that department store. I am sure everyone in the store was watching us. I can't help wondering how Dad and Carl reacted when they first spotted each other!

After all the hugs and tears, Dad says we need to go eat -- we all saw how thin Carl was -- rations had been scarce. When we were eating, Dad says, "Carl, you need to eat". My brother replied, "I can't eat much, I'm not used to the food; I will get sick if I eat too much. I will have to learn to eat regular food again." Oh my ... I have tears here; I'm sure my parents had theirs flowing at such news too.


But, just think of the miracle of it all. For us to be in that store at that exact time when Carl, just having gotten off a train nearby -- he's wondering, and feeling very hurt, why there was no one to meet him at the station, and we're the ones not knowing anything about where he was and why his name was missing from all the lists. It had to be a miracle.

My brother has been gone many years now. I'm grateful for these special memories I have of him -- they make me feel close to him today. And I feel fresh tears for what he went through, and what all soldiers and their families must go through.

Today we take time to reflect on those who are no longer with us as well as the ones who are still putting their lives in danger every day. Let's be thankful for them, for the freedom we have, and the food we eat.
by Evelyn