For any of you who have ever wanted to write a book you can imagine the thrill when it’s finally finished. Moving characters along page by page becomes an emotional journey for the writer. Bringing Jerry to life was that emotional journey for me. Finding a happy ending for him became my personal reward.
Jerry is a fictional character suggested by my husband when I was scrambling for a story for the 2018 NaNoWriMo, a 30 day, 50k rough draft novel writing challenge. His idea to write about a homeless man is how Jerry was born.
Jerry is a reminder for me of how easily a person can lose their way. Jerry Resurrected is a symbol that with a little help from others, there can be happy endings.
Finding Nine by Author SUKI LANG
Suki Lang lives and writes in British Columbia. A story teller by nature she has a strong belief in miracles and a certainty that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way – This writer has no trouble finding happy endings.
This is the story of John, a 16 year old who loses his mother to cancer. During the last year of her life she writes a series of eight letters for her son to read after her death. Designed as a treasure hunt, the letters take John to a place his mother left long ago, where he meets a family he knows little of. The object of the hunt seems to be to find a perfect spot to place his mother’s ashes. But John soon discovers the letters are his mother’s way of helping him move through his grief, and of letting him know she will always be by his side. The journey he takes is about finding hope in the love of two people who welcome him with open arms. And John’s arrival is a gift never expected but long hoped for by two of the people his mother did not forget. Through the natural order of things a son is given the opportunity to fulfill a mother’s last wish and to discover her many secrets yet untold.
TO PURCHASE – FOLLOW LINKS BELOW
Writers all around the world have sharpened their pencils, pulled out their laptops or iPhones and are rapidly spilling their stories out. The 30 day, 50,000 word count rough draft novel challenge is upon us. And for the first time since 2014 I was not sure if I’d join in this year.
Lined up for the challenge are two types of writers. Plotters and Pantster. Plotters create a story line with graphs and outlines. A Pantster has the seed of an idea, sits down and literally writes by their seat of their pants as fast as they can. I’m a Pantster with Plotter tendencies when it’s time to revise/edit.
This year without the seed of an idea I turned to rewrites (which are allowed) and revision of old drafts. I’ve got four rough drafts in my arsenal yearning to be worked on. But no new ideas. Wish me luck.
Well it looks like I fell off the 100 days of Happiness commitment wagon. In fact I have not written about happiness since June 25 or day 25 of my 100 days. How about this, I will pick up where I left off? I’ll start day 26 right here right now. Someone once asked me, “do you want to be a quitter or a failure”. This question was in relation to my desire to pack the BC real estate course in. I’d come to the stage in the course where I had to learn to use a business calculator. Math not ever having been my forte I froze every time I tried to do an assignment. The course was taken via distance and so I’d snail mail my assignments in once a week. And most times I’d get every thing almost right. It was so long ago I can’t recall how many wrong answers you were allowed before they’d make you redo that weeks assignment. During the math section my work was sent back every week. So, as I was saying some smart person posed that question to me. Today I am asking myself that question. Is it important to follow through with a promise immediately or in this case within 100 days. Or is it enough to check in from time to time to say “yup, I had some happy days”. And I did. I did. Today though I feel really happy and that is why I’m writing in my blog. Just to reach out and say it’s ok to find joy in the mundane. I found my happiness today and the last few days, cleaning out my closets, sorting through junk and tossing what I don’t need. Soon all will be in order and I’ll feel even better than I do this day. This day, I feel grateful to recognize joy when I feel it. And I feel go to remember how good it feels to just start again as if there were never a break and also to remember what I said that day so long ago, “I’d rather be a failure than a quitter any day”.
If yesterday didn’t present me with an obvious happy or spectacular moment today already has. For the past fourteen years we’ve provided care for a young woman with autism spectrum disorder. She is lovely and provides me with many insights and lessons on communication and human nature too. She lives in our suite and has complete access to the whole house; having her own suite just makes sense for all of us. Though I do all the cooking and cleaning, having her own place gives her a semblance of independence and also gives her privacy and time alone. Each morning she phones to ask what’s for breakfast and today she stuck to routine and called as usual. When my cell phone rang, I was writing in my journal a Happy Father’s Day message and how we miss our son Jason on days like this. So when I answered, I asked her if she would like to wish a happy Father’s Day. She giggled and asked what she should say; just what ever she might write in a birthday card I told her. She began to sing a song to the tune of “we wish you a Merry Christmas”. And it began like this, “we wish you a happy Father’s Day” and ended like this “…..and a happy new year”. Her voice is sweet and high and hearing her made us laugh out loud with absolute pleasure. A Happy Father’s Day for my man and happiness for me to see him have such pleasure.
There is a school of thought that dictates writing must have a healthy dose of adversity to be interesting. Writing happy stories with happy endings is not what many readers want. Readers want the blood and guts of life, the challenges faced every day when waking up, they want the exposed and raw under belly, they want to know the writer has a more interesting and sad and miserable life than they do. Is it human nature to lean toward the negative to want to hear the gory details? During my 100 Happy Days project, it has truly been a challenge to document the one event or picture or comment or insight that represents another moment, during the day, that I can call happiness. Each night I go to bed unsure if I will find a happy moment the next day.
And then each day I manage to find it, that spot of sheer joy. Except today I didn’t, today is a day that is just mediocre; so far nothing has happened to make me feel utterly glad. I did stand in a lineup to sign a two year contract to own a cell phone. My phone was free with the signing, that’s something to feel happy about. I did this so I might have text communication and FaceTime communication with a grandchild. But getting the phone was a kind of pay it forward happy time. In other words the phone has the potential to give me a happy moment if I get a text reply or a chat on FaceTime! It is no guarantee I will experience a pleasurable moment or a spot of happiness associated with the hoped for contact from another. It is just another little bit of technology, another little piece of connectedness that in the end guarantees not a word. And as i have said before, “there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way”. So what inspirational picture can I offer today? Here it is….a gateway to the preverbal, greener pasture.
Do you have a sister? I do, in fact I have a few more than one. I am the youngest and truly at times I feel ancient compared to any of them on any given day. Very busy women are my sisters. Today one sis took time out of her busy schedule to entertain me and my dog. She took us for a walk through the neighbourhoods and along the alley ways, of the west side of Vancouver. We took our time and had a peek at the many lane way houses that are popping up all along the way. We wended our way back to her place and as usual she served up a yummy vegetarian lunch. Her culinary expertise is well know; add to this, her intrinsic way of making the dishes she rolls out taste even more delectable with the attention she pays to the presentation of the meal; she did not disappoint today. A well set table, beautiful looking colourful food and good company. Even the dog was happy.
When Jason was sick my husband threw himself into making a garden. Then Jason died and his garden became Jason’s memorial. After work each day he finds comfort there in among his vegetables; this year he replaced a chain link fence with a cedar picket one. This new fence acts as a frame for the completed picture. I do a bit of gardening myself there each day. When I was on my way there this morning light didn’t quite reach the garden and there, tucked into the quiet shadow the garden and all it means to my husband filled me with love, my heart began to open and find the warmth it seeks each day as I looked around and saw the fruits of his grief and all he has accomplished in the name of Jason our only child, our only son.
Finally it has arrived and I woke up happy! It is my birthday and I’m prompted to say “this is my best day yet” this month. And my best birthday since before Jason died. I woke up totally energized, happy and full of good thoughts, just like Ebenezer Scrooge. I wanted to run out into the streets and shout good cheer to everyone. In honour of Jason and in honour of myself I will carry a torch of shear delight all this day. Happy birthday to me:) …..my photo today is a page right out of my journal.
As I get older more and more people begin to die. First my friend Don Jacobson died of lung cancer on my birthday, then my dad died of heart failure, then Don’s wife, Jean died almost because she couldn’t go on without Don and willed herself to die too. Shortly after Jean, my aunt Yvonne died of lung cancer then my mum died of cancer of the esophagus. Jason, my son died August 30, 2011 of colon cancer. At very sad times a little sing song phrase has rattled around inside my head, a phrase that I worry will bring on more deaths of those I love….”death surrounds me”. But I know death surrounds all of us, it’s common to hear about a death from cancer or heart failure. We are meant to die, it’s our destiny, there is no escape. And it doesn’t matter, really, how we die. What does matter is how we live. And thinking these thoughts today led to my happy moment. There I sat on my adirondack chair overlooking the world I see, watching over Jason’s memorial tree, feeling the sun on my face and the wind swirling my long greying hair around. Knowing my dog is near, she won’t leave my side for long as her need arises to periodically go off to investigate. My husband too, wanders out to see me, bringing pillows and mats to lay on so I could get a tan if I wish….In that moment I knew this was the life for me, a life and activity that brings me pleasure. To just sit and contemplate the life that is unfolding for me while I am in the here and now, by living more in the moment there is time to see and explore and know my inner self. My happy self…
Jason is glad when he is spoken of, I know this because before he died he specifically asked I always speak of him, and encourage others to casually mention him for the rest of my life. And that’s all I have left now, that’s all I can give to him, my words, my memories, my daily chats. Today I was taken to lunch, an annual birthday lunch and we mentioned him and his early beginnings. My high school friend and I do this for each other during our birthday months and again at Christmas. She is steadfast and true, always remembering. Each time we meet we go for a meal followed by a shop and we each buy a matching knickknack as a memento of our time together. Today we bought matching small vintage look vases held in a little aluminium baskets. Very special, very dear. She and I were friends when Jason was born. Her mum, June, gave me what would be the only baby shower I had. The only people in my life at that time that seemed happy for me and supportive of my choice. Always warm and welcoming was her mum, June. And for all these years to follow I weep when I think of her and all she did for me in that one small gesture. It is the gratitude and the wonder of her easy kindness that still fills me with humility. She had faith in me which made me want to live up to that faith and be someone she would always welcome. And so seeing her daughter, my friend, and recalling the long ago kindness, I found today’s Happiness.
For the past two days I’ve been scrubbing the house. Making it all clean and shiny so when a realtor comes tomorrow they’ll say “oh wow this house shines”! And then they will tell me it is worth far more than I ever thought and our retirement will be settled. My yard work and cleaning has left me sore and stiff. Gardening, washing floors, vacuuming, hauling trash and moving furniture all take a toll on this body. My work almost complete I sat down out on the deck to read a few pages of a book, have a coffee and put my feet up. Immediately I note there is a presence in the yard, the stealthy movement through the perennial garden has captured the attention of my dog, Cozy. She is making soft whimpering sounds while she tracks the slow, smooth, shape that sashays through the growth. We both know what is there but wait for Tibble the cat, to languidly make his way out into the open. There he rolls and lays stretching out in the sun; looking up to tease the dog on the deck above, from the safety of the ground below. This is what I love. A day in the sun laughing at my helpless Cozy as she lays crying in frustration on the deck or racing along the railing, watching every movement all the while wanting to give that cat a chase. Laughing out loud I put my book down, fold my hands around the warmth of the coffee cup, lift my face to the sun and just enjoy the moment. To look for the happy moment of the day and then to find it too; This is the life!
There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way…
I wish I had a picture to show you what made me happy or why I’d be happier today than another day. I had a surprise, it was a feeling deep inside my chest bursting with warmth. It felt like love but it was a bit different and much more complicated in a way I won’t explain. Today I purchased a Father’s Day gift for my husband; Jason is gone but he is still a dad right? Jason would want his dad lavished with love, kindness and gifts.
So today I got him a hand made gift from a local artisan. As it happens it is someone our Jason knew long ago. While we chatted we discovered we have some unusual and very specific things in common and I had a hard time dragging myself away. Letting them get back to the business at hand I finally made my way home. And as I drove, the surprise feeling began to grow in my chest. A warm pressure was building until finally it burst inside me and I wept. Because without trying at all, without keeping my focus on the moment or attempting to find happiness, and quite by accident, I found joy. The joy of meeting a like minded person who knew my son. The joy of hearing someone say Jason’s name and remember him and talk casually about him with regard. To talk to me about my loss of him and all that he was to me, to my husband to the rest of my family. I felt joyful, I feel joyful, my tears are joyful. This happens to me at unexpected times when an event takes place that is so full of goodness I am filled with hope! What a kindness Jason sent me today…..Everything happens for a reason. And today I am happy! 98 days to go!
Have you heard of the Happiness challenge, “100 Happy Days”? One of my Facebook friends posts a picture every day, an up lifting, joyful picture often featuring her kids or her kids and small animals. And at first I mistook these renderings as the result of a guide for parents on how to provide good fun for their children during summer. Not so, this is a social media challenge. How great is that, all this time I’ve been seeking the good and watching for ways to be happy, reasons to be happy and some smart guru has coined a phrase “100 Happy Days” and stuck it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other social media buttons out there? This is an inspirational idea; who hasn’t been influenced by attitudes such as, anger, discontentment, bitterness? By staying in the moment and being focused I could influence others by finding joy, and happiness, sharing it, expressing it and rubbing it off on to others! Shouting it to the world, “I’M HAPPY”! My picture for this day, flowers from my garden…
Well here I am again, I couldn’t not blog and I do have a new project to share. Recently while at a friends home I casually admired two chairs in her living room. She is a bit like me and doesn’t get attached to “stuff ” so she said she’d sell them to me. A short negotiation ensued and now they are mine to do with as I please. When she offered to help lift them into the car I realized they were heavier than wood. They are lovely though and have great potential to become very glamorous…. A little different than painted art cards, this project will keep me creatively occupied and mindfully in the moment as I work away. My tendency is to hurry through when I’m working on a piece of furniture. This time I’ll try moving slowly, taking pleasure in and paying attention to each step. Watch this spot!
My thirty days of painting art cards has come to an end, I succeeded in following through with a daily regime that offered no money or other obvious pay off. I’ve felt pride in painting the minis and feel pride in writing about them daily on my blog. For some this may be standard practice; for me this has been living outside my lifelong norm. The number one lesson I’ve learned this month is, employing a daily creative practice is like a soothing salve for my burning grief. I’ve learned living in the moment isn’t as easy as just doing it and Ive learned living in the moment takes mindfulness and practice. I’ve learned that creativity happens in the moment; creating too, happens in the moment. I’ve learned each day lived in the mindful moment will bring a new surprise, something I did not know about or know how to do or a new way of seeing the same old thing. I learned I can follow through, my motivation is still somewhat illusive but I do follow through. I’ve learned by limiting my options to ones insuring success, actually guarantees success and I’ve learned allowing myself to succeed brings no harm. To celebrate a successful culmination of thirty days of blogging about my meditative mini masterpieces it seems appropriate today’s featured card is a bouquet of flowers.
“What good shall I do this day” is one of two quotes found in Benjamin Franklins daily journals. His other quote is a follow up, “what good have I done today”. Two questions he asked himself, one first thing in the morning before he began his day and the second, in the evening as he reflected on his day. Yesterday I felt guilty for being too busy, for filling my time up with productivity and not enough quiet reflection. Today, the good I can do is to find pleasure in each task I set out for myself, by being in the moment with each task. “True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” Quote by Antoine de Saint
Each day when I write in my journal I make a “to do” list of minor things to accomplish for that day which if followed, effectively fends off slothfulness. My commitment of an art card a day for thirty days was made in part as a way to get me back into the world of the living; guiding me back into light hearted creative, mindful occupation of my days. In fact having a project to do each day has propelled me toward a busyness I never would have imagined. The daily propulsion necessary to write in my journal, paint and write a blog post a day too is beginning to take away from the enjoyment of each step because there are now too many…Relishing the idea of my own productivity now prompts the question “Have I become a person who has to fill all my time with productivity”? Even if I’m reading a book or meditating I am still doing “something”. The art of sitting still to be silent and to listen to an inner philosophical meandering or to watch nature for long periods has been lost to me. Has guided meditation to music, replaced quiet reflection. Or does quiet reflection have a new name – meditation. Either way my “to do list” will include more quiet reflection in the days to come. Looking backwards to the early days of this month, pleasure was found in the small tasks I gave myself because I was marvelling in the moment. My tasks as the days have past this month have grown; now I look ahead to the next task failing to realize the moment.
With my thirty day commitment almost at an end I wonder “what have I learned or accomplished”? When I began this project I envisioned moving forward to this point on the calendar where I’d be arriving at enlightenment, of a sort. That my mini masterpieces would be inspirational in themselves, they would be startlingly beautiful with new and imaginative subjects. Not so, I’ve not reached that point. What has happened though is I’ve reached a point of wanting to make mini commitments to myself for myself, making me stronger, healthier, more dependable, self reliant, somehow more complete a package. A person I can feel proud to be, a person who follows through, meeting deadlines. It has been a struggle gathering myself up each day to write a blog from a new perspective, trying to sound interesting and interested. In the end I’m satisfied with both; my mini masterpiece art trading cards and with the effort it has taken to agree to making a commitment at all. One thing I have learned about myself is, if I say I’m going to do something, I do…. My word is gold. The issue has always been, even saying I’ll do “something”. To me the word commitment is just another word for promise. And a promise, is a debt unpaid.
The kale 4 sale art trading card I painted yesterday inspired me so much I could not wait to paint this next card. Taking my little dog in to meditate with me I knew I’d emerge exhilarated, full of creative ideas. I emerged relaxed and restful, without desire or inspiration. And then as I sat ready to just paint anything, there lay beside me a newspaper ad featuring a man out standing in his field! This man is not who some may think it is… He is just a man in the ad. But more than that he is my first human, the first I’ve used in an art card.
Before painting my “kale 4 sale”, me and my dog spread out on a little bed we primarily use for reading, meditation and afternoon naps. Feeling a bit maudlin after days of living in the past and with worries about the future I needed to get back to the present, and on track with focus to the here and now. While meditating I had an epiphany, imagination happens in the moment, creativity happens right now, not in all the futures of the days ahead but right now. Recognizing my slip, out of the here and into the “there” fills me with gratitude. I deeply need the effect of this meditation to carry me into the future while I live day to day; for my epiphany to take root protecting me from further transgressions. Kale 4 sale was done in the moment and through my eyes is the most creative and imaginative I’ve been all week. I love it…
This little sunflower is an exact expression of how I feel today,bright, robust, full of life, good health, joy, peaceful bliss, beauty, alive! What a thrill it was to thrive in a mediative state throughout the painting of this mini masterpiece. This sunflower reminds me of a row of sunflowers Jason’s dad planted the summer Jason passed away. After Jason’s death and when I returned home from his hospital bedside the row of blooming sunflowers were the only spot of beauty on my horizon. And memories of Jason’s last birthday party here before they bloomed, he turned 41.
He asked I provide the venue and he went ahead and arranged it all. Jason sent out invitations, I sent out invitations and many turned up. At least 60 – 75 people who wanted to, came and went throughout the day. At some point in the middle of the afternoon and from the deck, calling out for everyone’s attention, I made a birthday speech. Jason made a speech too. ..mine began something like this…. “The day you were born Jason, was the most memorable and best day of my life. It was a starting point for me. My life and what went on in it was now referenced with: when Jason was a baby, or when he was five, or before Jason was born. And Jason I know you won’t like me to say this again this year but, I always celebrate this day, the day of your birth as ….my own birthing day”.
Jason’s voice from the crowd surprised me by booming out “keep on celebrating it mum”. Jason’s birthday is July 23rd, 1970… The same day as what I like to call my birthing day. This year I celebrate my 44th birthing day, thank you very much Jason.
While painting this day I thought of all my many birthdays and how one of them, has shaped how I’ve felt over the years about all the others. When I was turning 9 years old, my mother was in hospital. She had, apparently, left instructions for my dad and siblings to make a dinner party. The day came, I got all dressed up and nothing happened. They forgot…sadly by that tender age I had already become a person who kept secrets so told no one, reminded no one. I just wandered aimlessly around our side garden, singing softly and talking quietly to myself, feeling the shame of not being good enough to be remembered, my little heart broken. Eventually I was noticed and very gently told mum was in hospital and we’d have a celebration when she came out. The sadness of birthday anticipation has followed me year after year. Now that my only child is no longer here to somehow make my birthday a little better, it has been even more painful and a disappointment. This year, when It comes (in June), I’m throwing caution to the wind and gladly embracing my day as if Jason had come back to see me.
For those who know me well, yesterday’s post of a new location is no surprise. Going back as far as our first home purchase we have owned 13 properties. We find the ugly duckling on the block and from curb to bath we transform it. Never going large with a gutting of walls floors etc. we look for good bones and needed small updates, paint, flooring, an update to the kitchen, a new bathroom or two maybe some crown moulding and landscaping. It’s the project we love to putter with, over a year or two or five; when we are all done we seek something new. During my morning meditation this day a city emerged, complete with high rises, low rises, theatres, parks, beaches, a walkable community and I was sold. No lawns to mow, ground to hoe, just a lock and go. Another lifestyle for a future me to consider… country mouse or city mouse, which will I chose?
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I dreamt of Jason again. It was the middle of the night, when I woke up his presence was clear to me, as if he were in the room. So clear I knew I’d recall the details of his visit when I woke in the morning , and I have not. Not the details, just the hazy memory that he was here. My favourite dream is Jason coming out of the boreal forest to give me a hug. Remembering the forest and that very special Jason hug has gotten me through many days. Somehow this days painting reminds me of a boreal forest. My session began with ease, emerging to be bright and beautiful, fertile and full of growth while holding tight to hidden secrets. Lush, life sustaining, impenetrable, self sufficient.
And Wow I love this mini masterpiece. I’m drawn to the vibrancy and boldness of colour. Before I began to paint it I listened to restful, new age, meditation music and meditated. My frame of mind went from searching for a way to paint to instinctively knowing the way. I can understand why a routine of daily meditation has been adopted by so many. The music coupled with taking a few minutes to meditate before painting results in a feeling of double joy, double pleasure, double easy feelings while I paint and for the day ahead.
Some days I want to retire from my life in the here and now to my future life for just a day ;in another house, in another location. Where we are at peace with a lot less….. No phone, no tv, no car, technology close by, short walk to all services, friends, an ocean, a beach to walk on. A life of creative pursuits, gardens to grow, books to read, paths to walk, blogs to write, friends to invite… A life without all the clutter and stuff….a life without complication, a life of peaceful joy. In my minds eye the cottage below lends itself to just such an opportunity…a creative outlet… a fixer upper, swathing pathways through flora and fauna to garden patchwork beyond with benchs to sit upon for reading or sketching or tea with friends. This is the place my meditative painting took me today …A mini master”place” just waiting for me to arrive.
Early this morning as I slowly emerged from a sleep filled with dreams of Jason I wept for my own loss and for the joy of seeing him if only in my dreams. Yesterday on Facebook, I posted pictures of a tree I had the city plant in memory of Jason and pictures of our home memorial vegetable garden. Along with the photos I wrote messages too. I’m sure he heard all the resulting chatter of people whose lives he touched as they “liked” the posts or wrote comments of their own. Then Jason himself reached out to me in my sleep; reminding me he is always with me. And I know his visit was his way of thanking me for keeping him alive by talking freely about him ever mindful of including him in our daily lives.
The art trading card below does reflect how I feel this day. In a dreamy state of reassurance and bliss I return to my field of dreams to rest and reflect on Jason’s life; a life well lived.
Yesterday was a very special day, a tree was planted in memory of our son, Jason Langhorst, right on our boulevard! When I spoke with Steve in the parks department of the city we live in, and asked if this was something they would do he said yes. A Parottia Persica Vanessa now sits front and centre. The tree and all it represents puts me in a wonderful space for painting. The mini masterpiece below was painted in a deep and peaceful space, where my intellect said one thing and my brush said another. You see I’d never drawn or painted an orchid before. After the initial drawing which was very poor, I could have started over, instead I kept working until I found not all was lost and that a trick to success is to never never give up. I like the word – Sisu it is a Finnish word generally meaning determination, bravery, and resilience. …. fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win. As Jason liked to say “fight like hell”.
I attend a support group for parents who have lost a child and usually come away with an insight. Mainly women attend and occasionally newly bereaved parents are there with the rawness of new loss. The meetings are held in a respectful way and each person is allowed uninterrupted time to share thoughts, memories of their relationship with their child, the events that led to the death of their child , and their anger and other feelings and tears too. The group is solemn during this sharing time and then much more light hearted during the open floor period. This week as I mentally debrief I wonder about my own reaction to the grief of others which almost always elicits my own tears of support and compassion. My own path through this myriad trail of loss is to consciously be in the pursuit of healing my grief through joy, happiness and insight. Early on I recognized in myself the ease with which I could become addicted to the pain of grief. I asked myself what would my child, Jason, want for me. The answer was easy, I chose happiness as an addiction instead.
My card today is a true reflection of the joy and light heartedness I felt as I painted it.