Author: melanie

The future of my writing

This week I’ve been spending my days researching potential paid subscription accounts (and going to multiple body scans like bone and CT because: cancer). I think this is the direction I need to go. I want to treat my writing more like a job and less like something I do when I find the time for it. If nothing else I can change my answer to “yes” when my therapist and/or my mum ask: “did you do any writing lately?” I’ve also been trying to reclaim my space. When the pandemic hit my computer moved downstairs and my time was spent teaching the girls instead of doing any writing for myself. It’s always easy to find reasons not to be doing the exact thing your soul feels you should be doing.

When I’m not using my desk for writing it gets quickly filled up and the cork board gets filled with love notes from my sweet girls. I consider this basically the “clean” version of my desk.

Over the past couple years I have written a short story in nine chapters and a novella in 32 chapters. I don’t think a publisher would want either of them. In fact I’m not sure the novella could be published since there are A LOT of musical references in it but that’s a big part of the fun of it. Both are fun stories that have been well received by the people I have allowed to read them and I would like to get them out there in the world.

Years ago I got pretty heavily addicted to fan fiction. Not because I particularly cared about carrying on the story of that particular fiction (in fact most of the stories I read had nothing to do with the original except borrowed the character names) but because I really loved – and I mean LOVED – having a story I was following that was serialized. (Also because I could read it on my phone while I nursed a baby all night long.) I imagine that is how people felt waiting for a new chapter from Charles Dickens to come out in the latest edition of whatever magazine they were published in. People would sit around and read them and re-read them and speculate what is going to happen next. I am in no way comparing myself to Dickens but I do love the idea of slow reading.

So I have a whole list of things I would like to do as I move forward into a more creative and monetarily funded role. I am trying to decide how many tiers I should have (two sounds the easiest but I may go with three) and I will always have a free tier for blogging and keeping in touch with people – I understand that times are tough and not everyone wants to read my stories. And, of course, there is always the caveat that I may get too sick to do much but for now, while I am feeling really good, I’m not going to focus on that. I’m going to focus on what I CAN do. I hope people will have enough faith in me to support me.

Autumn is here and so am I

Fish Creek Park: September 19th

October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!

Rainbow Rowell from the novel Attachments

Autumn is – by far – my favourite season. I love the cooler temperatures, the fresher air, the changing colours. Even though I haven’t been to school in years I still want my planners to start in September. I still buy myself new pens and other school-like supplies. September always seems like the start of all things good and the end of October feels like the real time to celebrate the new year.

Autumn is short where I live. I often joke that it starts in the middle of August here in Alberta but it’s a joke based in reality. The days can still be really hot but the air coming over the mountains is changing enough that the nights are getting cooler and the grass and leaves also start to get that first hint of yellow. People can complain all they want (and they do, is there anything people like to complain about more than the weather?) but I’ve found the only sane way to live in this world is to accept the seasons as they are for where you live. Just because the calendar says that a season changes on a certain date doesn’t mean anything. I mean, by December 21st we have usually had a month and a half of cold and snow so thinking that winter “starts” on that date is absurd.

This year we are having a long and glorious autumn. It may seem weird to you but it is really something that we haven’t had one snow storm yet – they don’t last but usually by this time the jokes about Snowtember or Snowtober have been made. Facebook memories recently showed me photos of the girls playing in the snow around this time last year.

Fish Creek Park: September 26th.

Autumn in the time of Covid is a new experience. I think we are trying to hold on to it tighter than ever this year for fear of when the cold weather pushes us all indoors. It is still easy to get out and go for long walks and we have been traveling to the other edge of the city to take walks in Fish Creek Park. This is something I look forward to all week long. We walk, we look for deer, we spend time watching bees have afternoon naps in the warm autumn sun, we hang out near the river and stay off the main paths with the crazy cyclists who seem determined to run people down. The girls put their feet in the river and let the minnows nibble on their toes.

Fish Creek Park: October 3rd.

Fish Creek is a massive park that is still in the city so it feels like getting out of the city without actually having to drive for a couple hours. This time last year the only time I could go to a park is if someone would push me in my wheelchair. These days I can do a good 2 to 3 km walk (with stops to sit and enjoy just being outside). My feet hurt at the end of it and I’m often paying for it the next day (this is a symptom of my current chemotherapy) but it is a small price that I am very willing to pay. These days I want to experience as many parks as I can. We encourage the girls to spend as much time outside as possible with their friends because once the cold hits we will be inside and isolated again (unless we toughen ourselves up some more).

Canmore Park.

To be honest I barely remember autumn last year. I was so sick (had started IV chemo in August and it failed but I still had to endure many weeks of it and lost my hair again) and in a lot of pain. I’ve discovered something over the course of this past year though – another year of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. Of many rounds of radiation and playing around with pain medications and going from being handicap to being active again knowing that this is all temporary. I’ve learned that I really need to take these good moments and celebrate them when I can. Really celebrate them.

I’ve learned that even though my disease is by definition “terminal” – until my oncologist tells me I am out of options and to go home and get my affairs in order then I am not dying. I’m still here. I’m the same woman I’ve always been – even if not every one can see that. I’m still here – which is exactly where I want to be.

On a walk last weekend with my friend Lisa at River Park.

Leave a comment and let me know what your favourite part of autumn is? It’s Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and we are hoping to be able to do an outdoors version with our family where everyone brings their own food and then a small at-home celebration for the five of us. I feel like two celebrations makes good sense because we have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Is there anything more exciting than meeting some deer in the woods?

Sometimes good things end and you are both happy and sad.

Something rather amazing happened this week. Well, both sad and amazing. I think I mentioned many posts (and months) back that I wrote an article for THIS Magazine called: Leaving A Literary Legacy about reading to my daughters. I have talked about this many times on numerous platforms since my diagnosis – that the thought of not being around to share certain things with my daughters leaves me feeling anxious and panicky. I remember when I was first diagnosed thinking: “But now I’m never going to get to read all of the Harry Potter books to my girls.” And while that may seem weird to some people (uh, what about how you won’t be able to stick around for THE REST OF THEIR LIVES??) it became kind of the pinnacle thing I wanted to do with them. I mean, sure, there are a million things I want to do with them and I’m still here so I’m always adding to the list which grows and changes as they grow and change – but the one thing that never changed was wanting to share these books with them. Also, physically, it was an easier thing to do than, say, anything that involved being physically healthy.

On Wednesday night I read the final chapter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to my youngest daughter – thus closing the chapter on one of the major post-diagnosis goals I had set for myself.

I know so much has been going on with the author of these books lately and I’ve read them enough times to see the flaws in them, but I’m not here to talk about that. The Harry Potter series got me through a really rough depression in my 20s. It gave me a hopeful narrative to get lost in. It gave me something to look forward to waiting for a new book to be released. I can’t count how many times I have read this series – both to myself and aloud to my girls. And the other night when finished reading the final book to my youngest daughter it felt like a major milestone was achieved.

I’m still here! I did it!

And then I thought: So what’s next?

I know it’s weird that my goals aren’t things like: be here for their high school graduation or their wedding. But I’m trying to be realistic. This past year was so hard physically and emotionally that being able to complete this small goal feels massive. I hope, years from now, that the girls will look back and realize has amazingly special it was to share this together. And how awesome their mom is at reading aloud. I mean, seriously, I even do (very subtle) voices. Someone should hire me to narrate audio books. All those years of going to Fine Arts schools and studying theatre was obviously good for something.

So now what?

100 Day Project – Days 54 – 56 Literary Witch: Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde wasn’t chosen as this week’s literary witch because of the mystical power of the universe. I chose her and pulled her out of the deck on purpose. I’ve been trying to write this blog post for days and who else could I have this week, a week of protests and demonstrations and anger and sadness because another black man has been killed needlessly by the police. George Floyd. Death by asphyxiation because the officer wouldn’t take his knee off of his throat.

When I was in my early 20s my brother-in-law offered to drive my parent’s car across the country to their cottage. I don’t remember the specifics but for some reason the car was owned by me (I bought the car from my dad for a dollar but I don’t remember why he wanted me to do this). Anyway, as my brother-in-law was driving across Saskatchewan he was pulled over by the RCMP for the crime of “driving while coloured”. He wasn’t speeding but he was a dark man driving a nice car (a 10-year old Nissan Maxima is the “nice” car in this case) and if it wasn’t for the letter I had written saying that I had given my brother-in-law the permission to drive my car across the country we don’t know what would have happened to him. Somehow I knew to worry about him enough to write that letter. Canada is not immune to racism, it’s just that ours is usually quieter. We are politely racist. All of us. Having relatives of colour does not give me a pass from this – but it has certainly made me keep my eyes open. Open to witness strangers touching my nephew’s soft afro when he was a toddler (without asking). Open to one of my nephews being accused of being a terrorist as he walks down the street.

I haven’t been posting anything on social media about the deaths or the protests because I don’t want to contribute to what I call all the “white noise” that is going on at the moment. This blog, this little spot on the internet that few people read, this is where I can post. But right now I don’t need to be another voice shouting “Look at me! I’m one of the good ones!” Am I? Probably not. I want to help but other than educating myself and my children about white privilege and white supremacy I don’t really know how. I need to come to terms with my own biases and not pass them along to my children. I think what white people need to realize is that the term white privilege isn’t a derogatory term or an insult and to not immediately get offended. It’s just a fact. My job right now, in addition to teaching my children, is to make sure they don’t immediately go to the “I hate all white people.” Or, “I hate being white!” statements (because this is what I am getting.) That doesn’t help anyone and it doesn’t move us forward. It’s okay to be happy with the skin you are in, it is okay to be white but the issue is that it should also be okay to be black. But it is being proven again and again that being black in North America is not okay. It is not equal. While I am teaching my children about equality black mothers and fathers are teaching their children how to deal with the police and try and not get shot. How is that equal?

A good quote I found on explaining to the “All Lives Matter” people why Black Lives Matter: “If you were at an event supporting people with Breast Cancer no one would run in and scream ALL CANCER MATTERS. That’s a given, it’s obvious. No one is saying it doesn’t.” (Quoted from Blessthemessy on Instagram.)

Today there was a protest in Calgary. I did not attend. I feel guilty that I did not attend but that is just not the kind of support I can give right now. My family is giving up a lot to keep me safe from Covid-19 and exposing myself (even with a mask) would have been a disservice to them. I would have had to have someone push me around in my wheelchair and I just can’t get that close to anyone right now. (Also I spent most of the day at the hospital.) It isn’t the same as the protests and riots going on in the U.S. People seem shocked by the violence but when your voice has been silenced and ignored for so long how else can you get attention? I’ve got no answers and my white tears don’t help anyone. All this talking seems like a lot of white noise.

Here is a poem by Audre Lorde published in 1978.


The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color”. And
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

100 Day Project – Days 52 & 53

The sun is shining, the rest of the garden is in, I’ve been out walking with my cane but leaving it behind as I walk around the house. Spring feels like it is here to stay in Calgary and hopefully I will continue to have less pain and be able to be more active. My favourite yoga place is having a 30 Days of yoga (at home) right now and I wish so badly that I could join in. It is so weird and frustrating to not be physically active when you have labelled yourself a relatively physically active person. I mean, I was never super ripped or anything but I’ve always tried to incorporate physical activity into my day-to-day life and now I know walking around the block is a victory but my mind hasn’t made the change yet. I suspect it never will. I used to do squats while brushing my teeth and push ups every day. Not to impress anyone but because I have small bones and small muscles and not terribly strong already and felt I needed to keep active to keep what little strength I did possess.

Being able to put the garden in myself helps though. Being able to nurture my plants and move the pots around to follow the sun feels like something. It feels like a real accomplishment. And this week I was determined to learn how to use my overlocker and after a few frustrating failures I have finally got it working. Now I just need to make something. I have some old jersey I bought centuries ago (for babies) that is really quite thin (which I didn’t know when I ordered it but made me not want to use it for babies) but it would make a cute t-shirt for Oonagh who probably won’t mind a see-thru shirt. I would love to make Moira a really nice skirt but she is so cold all the time that even though the rest of us are in dresses or shorts she is still covered head to toe and wearing her fleece or a sweater daily. It’s also the age. I was pretty dedicated to wearing my brother’s clothing when I was her age and my brother and I aren’t anywhere near the same size. (Especially not then as we are almost 7 years apart).

What else have we been up to… Well, Mister & I finished our Humphrey Bogart box set although Treasure of the Sierra Madre wasn’t actually on it (in its place was a documentary about John Huston) and African Queen wasn’t even listed. We have got our hands on those movies and will probably watch them this weekend. Sabrina also isn’t in the box set but we already have a copy of it. Every afternoon the whole family has sat down to watch Digging for the Truth which is a History Channel docu-series from about 15 years ago. It leads to a lot of good family discussions.

I also really need to get back to that sock.