The following ran as my July 27, 2016 Just a Thought column in the Terrace Standard. Because I’ve been distracted by wonderful things this summer (namely my new grandson🙂 and my whopping 25th wedding anniversary), it was a reprint of something I wrote in July 2012 . . . and while the weather right now is glorious, hot, sunny and perfect, and I haven’t complained about it a bit, the words still resonate with me. I hope you like them too. Enjoy!
When I was very young, my brother and I used to clamor for our dad to take us to this long grassy strip beside the railway tracks in Smithers so “we” could run. What we actually wanted was for him to run, while we chased after him. We were awed by his speed and would exhaust ourselves trying and trying and trying to keep up. We thought he was literally the fastest man on earth, and told him so. He would laugh and laugh . . . and then, sort of embarrassed like, add, “I’m really, really not—and please don’t tell anybody that I am.”
His disclaimer only made us all the more convinced that he was the fastest, that he was just being modest or kind of like Clark Kent, trying to keep his super powers under wraps. And he was our hero in other, bigger, ways too.
This hero worship and pure rose-colored love applied to my mom as well. In addition to being the best cook in the known universe, she could sew anything, patch up the most gruesome injuries without a blink, and fix any toy. Plus, she was a math and science genius!
As I got older my dad’s super hero qualities—and those of my mother’s—diminished. (In fact, for a good chunk of time, they completely lost all ability to do anything remotely right or to know anything. After a few years, miraculously, they got at least some of their admirable qualities, skills and know-how back. Phew.)
But it didn’t matter that I no longer blindly worshipped them, that I realized they didn’t actually have invisible wings or magic capes, that they were, in fact, the same as me, just people trying to muddy through life the best they could. The lesson—that you can and should have people you admire, that you look to as examples of how to live and be—was set.
While I don’t think we should idolize anyone to the point that if they fall off their pedestal it completely shatters our vision of ourselves, our hope for our lives, or our world view, I do believe, regardless of our age, it’s nice—and incredibly beneficial—to have heroes.
Identifying people who are doing what we want to do, living how we desire to live, or who embody morals, character, and personality traits that we would like to have, then watching them and practicing their methods and approaches, is a great way to learn how to maneuver life yourself. Sometimes, or regarding some specific things, those people might be family members, but other times, we may need to focus beyond our immediate roots.
Over the years, I’ve looked to a myriad of people for guidance, affirmation and inspiration—as a mother, a homemaker, a writer, in my career, but also just as a traveller on the road of life. It can be a treacherous, terrifying road with bad slippery spots and tough terrain at times. Looking for clues on how to manage and thrive from those with more experience just makes good sense.
We should all seek heroes—unique to our personal bents and aspirations, hopes and dreams. And we should never worry about whether anyone else is similarly inspired by our notion of what makes someone “heroic.” It’s a uniquely personal thing. And should our heroes need to change their outfit, fly with another cape or be supplanted or joined by someone else because we’ve grown all we can under their influence—well, we should feel no guilt in looking to someone new. Heroes understand.
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“Have Heroes” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, June 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” It’s part of a theme I’m exploring this year–“Things I want my children (and future grandchildren) to know.” Any you’ve missed can be found here:
Hello and happy (sunny!) Thursday greetings,
I just wanted to pop up a quick note for all KOBO readers. Kobo’s having a huge sale to celebrate the first week of summer. Hooray! For just a few days, a huge percentage of their stock is 50% off, including each of my River’s Sigh B & B novels and Bigger Things. Load your summer reads now–and please spread the word. Click this link to get shopping! 🙂
Wishing you a wonderful weekend (Come on, let me have it — it’s almost the weekend, after all) and, of course, happy reading!
I was always fascinated by my mom’s purse, a treasure trove of comfort and necessity. She had a preference for large leather handbags. The size seldom varied, nor the contents, nor the lovely minty scent.
Perusing the bag was a favourite treat. It always contained, at minimum:
- At least one tube of some bright berry-red lipstick, worn to an extremely sharp edge—a fact that still fascinates me as I always grind mine to a smooth, flat surface. My mom’s way seemed much more sophisticated!
- Rolls of chalk-white, green centered mints. (Hence the calming aroma.)
- Mini packages of tissue papers
- Individually wrapped lemony wet wipes
- Cough candies (hideously strong ones)
- Assorted pens
- A spiral notepad
- Band-Aids (multiple sizes)
- Aspirin (in a tiny white, yellow and brown tin with a sliding lid)
- A Hot Wheels car or two
To me, her purse was the epitome of femininity and motherhood. I considered it glamorous (even though it was usually squat and grey) and practical, and I vowed that if I was ever a mother, I would have just as fascinating and soothing a purse to help me attend to my needs, the needs of my children and those of any other random kids who happened to fall down in my proximity, needed to jot a note, or just had really bad breath.
And then I had kids.
My failure to ever carry a bag remotely as well-stocked as my mom’s, let alone one with an entrancing minty scent, symbolizes the theme of most lessons I learned about motherhood: things rarely go as imagined or planned, and often we’re not the moms we envisioned being—for both better and worse.
And it was the kindest instance of that repeated lesson. We’ve all done it. Vowed we’d never do such and such like our mother. Promised we’d never say X, Y, Z, or do . . . blah, blah, blah. Hopefully, we can also identify tangible ways our mothers showed their love, see characteristics we want to emulate.
It wasn’t until I had my children that I realized how young you are (regardless of your age!) when you have kids and become responsible for someone else, how inept and ill equipped for the task you feel. It’s not just their physical wellbeing and nourishing you need to worry about—in fact, that’s the least of it. You have a tender soul to raise, who will feel each one of your mistakes—and each of life’s random happenings, which you are completely powerless against—so keenly it makes you bleed inside. You will, like it or not, shape the adult another person grows to be. There is so much love and awe and fun—and yet so much absolute terror and mind-paralyzing insecurity.
Kids view the world through their mother’s eyes, her introduction to it. And all the time I was young, I thought there was some magic adult age (that somehow coincided with a child bursting forth from your uterus) where you Know (capital K) all things—thus any mistakes, follies, or perceived injuries had to be intentional.
If you’re a parent, you’re shaking your head because you know full well that the only thing that “bursts forth” with your firstborn is a powerful new awareness: that forever you will love someone more than yourself and never be more powerless, or at least feel more powerless, to be all the things you want to be for them, to protect them how you need to, to give them all they’ll require to endure and thrive—and you have to do it from whatever place you’re at in your life at whatever moment, with all the lack of answers, sketchy finances, unresolved gunk, relationship problems, grief, illness, etc., etc.
Mothering helped me understand my mom better and showed me that forgiving her for any perceived wrongs was critical to my emotional growth and to choosing how I wanted to live and be and parent. Focusing on her strengths and successes, the things she taught me and how she’d inspired me, allowed me to take personal responsibility and grow into someone separate and distinct from her—yet to feel an increasing connection to her—exactly, I believe, as she always wanted for me.
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“Every Day Is Mother’s Day” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, May 25, 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” It’s part of a theme I’m exploring this year–“Things I want my children (and future grandchildren) to know.” Missed the first four? Find them here:
Okay, so it’s mid-June and I keep thinking May’s just wrapping up, LOL. Oh well, at least it’s been mostly good things keeping me busy.🙂 In fact, I had wonderful news in May, three times over!
One of my poems (“Irregular Shapes”) received an honourable mention in the Shuswap Association of Writers’ 2016 Askew’s Foods’ Word on the Lake Writing Contest (Poetry category), and my essay “Birthing Relationships” won second place in the same contest (but in the Non-fiction category). Woot, woot! I’m so grateful to all the industrious, art-minded folk who support and nurture literary arts.
I also found out that my novel HOOKED is a 2016 RONE finalist. I’ll find out in October if it’s the grand winner, but even making the final cut has me dancing around my office with honor and delight!🙂
Last but not least, if you live in the Terrace area and fancy an evening of reading and chat for a good cause, I urge you to come out to “Words of Welcome,” a group reading/fundraising event, at the Terrace Public Library tomorrow night (7:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 14, 2016).
Eden Robinson, Adrienne Fitzpatrick, Al Lehmann and I will each be reading a short excerpt or two from a published work or work-in-progress, and will be on hand for a question and answer period. Entry is by donation, with all proceeds going to the new families moving into Terrace from Syria. It promises to be an entertaining, thought-provoking night–and it’s for an excellent cause. Please come!
In a memory so clear I can practically taste the dust I kicked up, inhale the sweet scent of cottonwood pollen, and feel the heat of the packed earth—and the occasional sharp bite of gravel—against the winter-tender soles of my feet, a moment from a school day over thirty years ago has always stayed with me.
I was in grade five, the final bell had rung and we’d been dismissed. I’d been held back after class for something, however, and by the time I was outside (feeling hard done by and blue) and ready to walk home, there wasn’t another kid in sight. It had been cold and wet when I left for school that morning, so I was wearing boots and a heavy jacket—but it was late March or early April, meaning the weather could go from snow to beach-ready seemingly overnight, or in this case, over the seven or so hours I’d been inside. As I left the school grounds and started my trek past the then neglected, vacant lots, something pulled me from my sadness: the realization that it was warm.
I peeled off my coat. Stopped to admire dandelions. Noticed buds on a bush that had been tightly closed earlier now revealed tiny green leaves. The birds were noisy. The air was delicious. My feet sweated. I considered the well-worn dirt path snaking through the unkempt bright green grass and made a decision. Tying my coat sleeves around my waist, I bent down, tugged off my boots, ripped off my socks and stuffed them inside said boots. Then gripping my footwear in one hand, feeling weirdly proud, I walked the rest of the way home barefoot, sure that each passing car was envious of me and my unconfined toes.
That evening, when my mom asked how my day was, I answered, “Great.” And I wasn’t lying or forgetting. It had just . . . changed.
Over the years, that memory, so tiny and seemingly insignificant, grew to have . . . significance. It was, in my young brain, vivid evidence that moods and circumstances—and nature/life itself—changes. Of course, in terms of what life would throw at me, what I’d go on to endure, a bad day in elementary school was a walk in the park, but it remained a tangible encouragement, regardless.
For almost as far back as I can remember, I’ve been deeply affected by the seasons. I’m at my height of happiness and peace (I bloom so to speak!) in the hottest heat of summer. I turn to inward things, literally and metaphorically, in autumn as everything around us dies or settles into dormancy. While I’m not unappreciative of the beauty of snow and ice, winter is my hardest season. I feel a bit frozen too, and if I’m going to have gloomy thoughts, they’ll hit hardest in November and then again in January and February.
Spring, however, ahhh—although not my favourite season (because remember summer, guys, summer!)—always feels like a gift because it reminds me of deep truths I intuited all those years ago walking home from school: Hard times (winters) eventually end and easier times come again. Things that appear dead can rejuvenate, come back to life, bigger, stronger, and more resilient than ever. Root systems, the supports for growth and health, are often invisible, yet they exist.
There have been times in my life—and unfortunately, there will be more, I’m sure—when it seems like a particularly difficult season (grief, heartbreak, loneliness, financial hardship, a crisis of faith, you name it . . .) will never end. Yet just like spring always eventually comes, those heavy, hard to deal with things inevitably lighten.
Spending time in nature (throughout the year and every kind of weather) helps me take heart and remember: seasons change and so do we.
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“Seasons Change” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, April 27, 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” It’s part of a theme I’m exploring this year–“Things I want my children (and future grandchildren) to know”–and feels very apropos as I’ve been spending every minute I can outside in my garden, watching things grow.🙂 Missed the first three? Find them here:
When I was little, I was enamoured with the Wade collectibles that came inside boxes of Red Rose tea. Some of you may remember the tiny ceramic creatures and people, their enchanting details and soft colours. My favourites were the nursery rhyme characters: The Queen of Hearts, Little Boy Blue, Little Miss Muffet, Jack and Jill (each with their sad faces and spilled bucket of water), Little Red Riding Hood, just to name a few.
My mom collected them for me, and seeing that what I loved most about them was playing make-believe and dreaming up elaborate fairy tales, she didn’t insist I keep them on shelves. She bought me a small plastic table. Its round brown top was patterned to look cushion-topped and its pedestal base was like gingerbread lace. A circle-shaped mirror from an old suitcase became a pond, and in the glow from my bedside lamp, the works became a magical land.
Many things about that memory stand out as important. My family struggled financially when I was small; my parents married young and had three children while putting my dad through school—which demanded moving a lot. I’m sure porcelain doodads were very low on my mom’s personal list of priorities, but she chose to assign value to something I wanted just because they were little and pretty. And she wasn’t the only one in my family to instil this notion that it was okay, was important even, to seek out moments of beauty or to collect trinkets, purely because they were lovely.
My Grandma Nora was the epitome of hard work and thrift. Orphaned young, enduring severe deprivation during the war, immigrating to England from Holland to work as a maid, she cut the paper off wherever she ended a note, so she could save and use however-small-the-remaining piece for another missive. She formed balls of salvaged elastic bands and aluminum foil to re-use. When soap bars grew too small to use, she kept the tiny slivers in a jar, so she could melt them down and make new ones. Yet she adored cut flowers and had small vases in surprising places. She adorned her letters with fanciful stickers. When she opened her own flower shop, she carried whimsical accessories.
When I became a young wife, both my mom and my grandma encouraged me to A) be frugal and try to live within my means, and to B) try to bring beauty to my home in small, inexpensive ways—not because it would make me a good wife or mother, but because it would bring me pleasure. One of the first gifts my mom gave me when I had a home of my own was a white wicker tray and a square of gorgeous floral-print fabric. Its Victorian-look card read simply, “For your tea, love Mom.” I still feel incredibly blessed, rich in every important way, when I set my table prettily.
But please don’t think my idea of beauty centres on things. My dad routinely encouraged us to “take time and smell the roses”—a cliché, yes, but one he meant literally. He took huge joy in flowers and plants. And when we were outside doing seemingly unending chores, he’d often pause to stretch and breathe deeply, then comment on the quality of the air, the colour of the sky, the beauty of the mountains.
One summer he and I were driving through the Cache Creek area. He loved the scenery, but I, ever appreciative of Terrace’s lush greenery, thought it was ugly. He was shocked, almost horrified, and said, “There’s beauty almost anywhere if you know how to look.”
We should all seek and create small moments of beauty and creature comfort—nice blankets, the mug that fits perfect in our hand, good food, pieces of art or pottery . . . They are tiny boons for our souls, comforting pleasures. And we should encourage those we love to appreciate—and see—the beauty in small things and everyday settings, too. Days always come when the ability to see some bright spark when everything at first seems grey and bleak is very important.
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1) What do you know? (Jan. 2016)