Thanks. No, seriously. Thank you. 

Photo by Kitsilano Neighbourhood House

Photo by Kitsilano Neighbourhood House

My parents used to encourage me to say thank you. A lot. When I was given a gift or present, after someone helped me in a store or checkout line (regardless of whether the “help” was particularly helpful or cheerful), in the classroom to my teachers, and when someone did anything for me, cooked dinner, helped with my chores, etc. Sometimes the results of this enforced gratitude were more robotic than sincere—but nonetheless, being polite, saying thank you, became a habit.

And my parents often took their say-thank-you lecture one step further. “It’s not enough to just say thank you,” they’d insist. “You have to feel thankful.” It sort of annoyed me. How the heck could I feel something I was being forced to say? But as my childhood and teen years progressed, I started to realize that speaking the words did focus me on what I was truly receiving and make me feel genuinely appreciative.

It wasn’t until I was an adult, however, that I learned of the notion of thankfulness or gratitude being a practice. Merriam Webster dictionary defines practice simply: “to do something again and again in order to become better at it: to do (something) regularly or constantly as an ordinary part of your life.”

Thinking of thankfulness as a practice made absolute sense to me. I absolutelywas more grateful when I took time to voice my appreciation to people or in prayer. And the more I acknowledged the beauty in the world and the abundance of ways I was helped and provided for, the better I got at seeing even more things to be thankful for.

I’m still growing my practice of thankfulness, of course (I suspect we never fully arrive!), and I’ve noticed other benefits of gratitude. Being thankful, and forcing myself to note and articulate things I’m grateful for, goes a long way to banish feelings of entitlement and self-pity. It’s easy to see all the things we perceive we lack, but when we flip our thinking and intentionally list the things we have and that people give us, materially or spiritually or whatever, it becomes almost impossible to not have a change in attitude. Being grateful doesn’t automatically remove hard times or change sad or terrible experiences, but it does help you cope because you see the good and the positive that coexists with the difficult. The Yang in the Yin, if you will.

So in that vein, here are just some of the things I’m incredibly grateful for: family, friends, food, health, home, books, nature. . . .

My list may seem obvious, perhaps—but sometimes it’s those “obvious” things that we forget to think on particularly and to say thank you for specifically. They can be the easiest to take for granted, and I don’t want to take anything for granted.

I regularly challenge myself to make lists of things I’m grateful for. The contents always change. Sometimes I make large sweeping generalities, like I did above. Other times I focus on the tiny details that sometimes get overlooked, so not family as a whole, but each individual person, then the unique particulars of their personalities that I so appreciate. Not nature as a massive entity, but the way frost forms crystal designs on golden leaves early the fall. Not food in one big gulp—but the first sip of coffee, perfectly creamed, when it hits your waiting tongue.

So I learned my parents were right, and I’m thankful for it. Saying thank you is important, but feeling thankful is even more so. May you always have eyes to see the good around you, and the willingness to do so, no matter how difficult it sometimes seems. And have fun! Taking the time to notice, really notice, all the things you have to appreciate is a joy-creating exercise.

p.s. To all my American friends, happy Thanksgiving in two days (and every day, of course)!
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“Thanks. No, seriously. Thank you,” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, October 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: 

1) What do you know? (Jan. 2016)

2) Kindness Matters (Feb. 2016)

3) Beauty in the details (Mar. 2016)

4) Seasons Change (Apr. 2016)

5) Every Day Is Mother’s Day (May 2016)

6) Have Heroes (June 2016)

7) Love Can Last (August 2016)

We need to remember, lest we forget . . .

remembrance-dayIt’s an especially hard or poignant or painful Remembrance Day for me, as I’ve always been someone who wishes she could identify as a Pacifist, but who is all too aware that throughout human history, there have been times when pacifism couldn’t work (though arguably many things—impossible seeming things—have been achieved through non-violence and acts of peaceful protest). There is a certain kind of person, of evil, that will not be deterred or stopped by anything other than brute force—no appeal to a greater good, to wisdom, to mercy, to conscience, to human decency because there is nothing decent in them. Hitler is the primary example of that, of course.

He could not have been, would not have been, put down by anything other than military defeat—although, that wouldn’t have been the case if he had never been allowed to rise to power in the first place.

And I’m always beyond grateful to live in the country and time that I do (although the random, undeserved good fortune of it stirs up a lot of existential questions—but those are for some other time)—and I do not take the freedom I enjoy because of the sacrifice of so many brave souls for granted. I am very conscious of the gift they gave.

But why is this year’s Remembrance Day harder than others? Because I look to our southern neighbors and I feel afraid—for them and for us. What have we done? What have we allowed?

After every “great” war, there’s always been a pervasive hope that it was, finally, the war to end all wars. Yet that was never the case.

Einstein once said, “I know not with what World War 3 will be fought, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones.”

I hated (still hate!) that he acted as if a third World War was inevitable, like we collectively, as citizens of earth, would continue to fail to learn to put hatred, racism, greed, selfishness and entitlement away. Or maybe what I hated was that I feared he was right.

Some people criticize Remembrance Day as “glorifying” war—and too many times in history, our soldiers have returned from atrocious battles, only to be shunned, marginalized, ignored or mistreated by the very governments who sent them out in the first place—as if the soldiers are somehow the ones to blame when a war becomes politically unpopular (Vietnam vets, anyone?). But it is the veterans—and the world’s current soldiers—who most fully understand the true horror and cost of battle—and I’m afraid that the sheer inability we people seem to have to grow in our ideas of how we treat and respect and even see other people as equally human will doom us to repeat our history’s darkest times.

“Lest we forget” gets chanted so often we almost don’t remember what it means: Lest we forget and thus repeat the same mistakes and horrors—and have another war. Lest we forget the massive casualties and stupid, horrific, meaningless deaths and get complacent, not remembering (or caring!) to extend the principles of human decency, respect and freedom that people died to provide for us—and condemn ourselves to another war.

There is this idea that floats around about “holy wars” or “just wars.” There is no holy war. There is no just war. And may there not be another unavoidable one. Please.

My thanks and deep gratitude to all those who fought to protect us from the worst elements of ourselves—those who gave their literal lives and those who came back, forever changed. My thanks also to the people whose lives were (and are) forever changed by living with the fallout from war, not just the death of loved ones, but the return of loved ones who were (or are) altered or damaged by what they saw, had to do, or had done to them.

Let us not forget. And please, please, let us not repeat. Perhaps, in fact, we should change the motto to, “We need to remember and be vigilant.” Hatred, conflict, and war don’t start in some far off, separate from us place. They start in our hearts and homes—in what we let ourselves overlook or justify, what we joke about, what we condone by our failure to speak out against—and they spread.

As Gandhi encouraged, we can be the change we want to see in the world. I truly believe it. For all our sakes, let’s do it.

Peace out,

p.s. I’m aware that my writing might sound as if I thought the last “real” war was Vietnam. I don’t mean to ignore the military conflicts, genocides, wars, struggles and “presences” that have gone on (and are still going), or to negate their impact. It’s just a massive topic and it’s hard to narrow it down.

Did you say 51 free books? I sure did! :D

november-free-for-allIf you’re one of my Ev’s News subscribers or you’ve popped by my Facebook page recently,  you may have already heard about this giveaway, but I just had to put the offer on my website too. It’s too good to not yell about, and I’d hate for someone to miss it!

50 authors offering 51 books = no winter blahs for you, only reading treats. Get your books here, now.

I’m sure you’ll find something to tickle  your fancy. Very happy reading!

🙂 Ev

Babies of Mine

ev-and-hugh-july-2016Shortly after my daughter was born, I came across Chris De Burgh’s song, “For Rosanna”—or maybe I heard it years earlier, but it didn’t resonate with me until I had my own child. He totally nails it, I thought (weepily, I admit). My life is completely and forever changed, to the point that I have difficulty articulating the words for what the change even is, but he has done it for me. I promptly changed his “Rosanna” to my daughter’s name, and it became my favourite lullaby.
When I had my son, again the song fit so well, it was as if it had been written for him. I changed a few words when I sang, and it became his song too.
“This is for—, sweet [child] of mine, A song for the baby who changed my life, I’ll never forget when I saw you first, I thought that my heart would burst, With the love that I have,” sings De Burgh in the opening verse.
He goes on to describe watching his child sleep and expresses that he can’t believe everything he feels—and, especially, the great love that he has. Still later, he sings that as he watches her grow from “baby to child,” he shares her sense of wonder.  
Most poignant to me, however, was his reflection on the things his child would experience when she was older—and how deeply he wanted her to know that he would always be there for her and that she was so loved.
It’s a song that still has the power to make me cry because I identify so much with all its love, hope, joy, yearning, pride and awe—and tiniest hints of trepidation and worry. And it gained new meaning and refreshed poignancy recently because I became a grandma this summer!
My husband and I were thrilled upon hearing we were going to be grandparents, and as the nine months progressed and the big birth day grew closer and closer, our excitement grew bigger and bigger, just as quickly as our daughter’s stomach. I knew, of course, we would love little him or her. And I knew we’d be surprised by how special it was. I was even aware that we probably wouldn’t have words to fully express our joy that well.
But even knowing that, I was not prepared for the crazy flood of . . . you name it.
I think most people understand that becoming a parent is a life-changing, forever-defining (and redefining) thing. I had no idea that in so many ways so is becoming a grandparent.
When my daughter called me for the first time after having her little son I’d already known he was born and that everything had gone well, but somehow hearing her voice undid me. When I got off the phone, I cried and cried. I can’t really name what the emotion behind my tears was. Definitely not sadness. Something the opposite of sorrow. Joy, yes. Relief, yes. Maybe though, to say awe or a sense of surreality would be the most accurate. My first baby had a baby.
And then I met Sweetest Guy and . . . I was just not prepared.
My husband, when pressed by my daughter, described his feelings for his grandson as being like all the love he has for her (our daughter), plus this all-encompassing new love that is just for our grandson. Was that hard to follow? Exactly. Some feelings, no matter how we struggle to describe them, will always defy our abilities to explain.
And every time I hold my little grandson, I feel . . . awe. I see something of my beloved daughter and a lot of my much-loved son-in-law in his little features and expressions, yet at not-quite three months old, he is already uniquely himself and is even beginning to have his own sense of humor. (He finds his grandma and his giraffe hilarious, just so you know.) There is something amazing about looking into the face of someone who carries your genes and your child’s genes, who is, as De Burgh says, blood of your blood.
Spending time with Sweetest Guy also triggers memories of little moments with my own kids that I thought I’d forgotten, which is very special. I could literally just hold him and watch him and enjoy him for hours and hours and hours. (Don’t worry. My daughter is very assertive. She doesn’t let me drive her too crazy.)
And maybe, just maybe, there’s the tiniest tinge of something bitter-sweet as every aspect of loving him reminds me of how much I delighted in being a young mom with young kids—and reinforces the sometimes-fought-against truth that my season for that is over.  But the dominant feeling is an overwhelming, deep joy and gratitude. It’s a new season.
The chorus to Chris De Burgh’s beautiful love song says, in part, “Oh how my heart it is shining, oh how my heart it is shining through—with the love that I have.” And maybe now, as when my own children were small, that is as close as I can get to explaining how I feel. My heart is shiny. There is a new person in our world and I—honour, responsibility, great fun and huge love that is—am his grandma.


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“Babies of Mine” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard in September 2016 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

Love Can Last

Photo by Yvonne Letourneau Rego

Photo by Yvonne Letourneau Rego

Originally I was going to title this “Love Can Die.” I was going to write about all the ways we destroy our romantic relationships, family bonds, and friendships through neglect, selfishness, and/or the insidious notion that the grass is greener elsewhere. I was going to talk about how, despite the fact that we have more tools, more opportunities for relationship help than ever before, we also have less resiliency, less perseverance, less hope—and we’re more fickle and more jaded—than ever before.

But that last word—jaded—stopped me. My brain filled with forty-plus years of memories and facts I’ve been blessed with: a marriage that just hit its twenty-five year mark (Crazy, right?), adult children who love me and seem to enjoy spending time with me, true, faithful friends . . . and I realized, no, in our day and age we are all inundated—by life experience, the media, and so many songs, stories and articles—with the knowledge that love can die, that the sincerest of promises get broken, that even the very best of intentions can fail.
So maybe what we need to know, to remember, to cling to in our slightly disillusioned era is that love can last. If it’s broken, it can often be fixed. If it’s weak and failing, it can often be healed. If it’s lost, it can often be found.  
It’s intimidating to talk about how to maintain or build love over the long haul because I’m fully aware that at least some of it comes down to luck. So please, don’t take this as advice, but as encouragement—a note about things that took me a long time to learn (and that I’m still figuring out how to practice more consistently) that have brought me a lot of joy, peace and love in my relationships with family, friends, and my husband. 
Don’t look for—or expect perfection—in anyone, not your spouse, not your kids, not your parents, not your friends. Not yourself.
Manage expectations. No one person can fulfill all your needs. Don’t hold it against someone if they can’t talk about all the things you need to talk about or don’t share your passion for XYZ. Get yourself a tribe—and allow and encourage the people in your life to build other friendships too.
Understand that people are the way they are for a reason—and it’s most likely not to hurt you or piss you off. It’s easy to hold things against someone, to see all their negative qualities, and the ways they possibly injured you. The remedy to bitterness is to recognize that we all have struggles. Looking at my own failings always makes me less critical of others.
Focus on positive qualities and quirks, not perceived flaws.   
Watch out for the demons of regret, unfulfilled dreams, self-loathing or unresolved issues from your past that might sneak in and tempt you to put your shit on someone else.
Be gentle and kind. Admit, and apologize, when you screw up, are grouchy, are hurtful (and try to do better!), and pray like crazy they extend you a lot of grace. Extend a lot of grace yourself.
Say what you need (people aren’t mind readers!), and insist on decent treatment and respect. We all have our lines in the sand—and they’ll be different for each individual. What I find hurtful, someone else might find totally okay, but be honest and vocal or you’ll harbor resentment—a relationship killer.
Be loyal. Don’t backstab or trash talk people you care about.
Give people room to grow and change. Don’t expect them to be mini yous. Having differences isn’t threatening; it’s what makes you interesting.
Have fun! Seriously, people underestimate the value of doing things just because they’re fun. Good times can make up for a lot of rough ones.
Love can last. Healthy relationships can endure. It, and they, may take a lot of work, at times—and you may have to confront things in yourself that you really don’t like, put in strenuous effort to better yourself, or ask—and work for—forgiveness, or, even more difficult, offer forgiveness, but nothing is more worth the effort. And thankfully, it doesn’t always feel like work!
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“Love Can Last” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, August 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: 

1) What do you know? (Jan. 2016)

2) Kindness Matters (Feb. 2016)

3) Beauty in the details (Mar. 2016)

4) Seasons Change (Apr. 2016)

5) Every Day Is Mother’s Day (May 2016)

6) Have Heroes (June 2016)

HOOKED by Ev Bishop = 2016 RONE Award Runner Up

rone-badge-runner-up-bronze-2016-1Woot, woot! Some of you may have already heard my exciting news, but I wanted to do an “official” happy blurt, regardless. HOOKED, Book 2 in my River’s Sigh B & B series, almost won a RONE award this year, earning itself a very respectable runner up!

I’m incredibly honored that HOOKED placed in InD’Tale Magazine’s increasingly prodigious contest, and I’m very grateful for the encouragement, motivation, and professional development InD’Tale Magazine (and its sister conference, InD’Scribe con) provide so generously. The staff, reviewers, and organizers are a wonderful resource and benefit to authors, small publishers and readers.

It’s my hope, goal, and aim (LOL!) to take home the gorgeous crystal RONE trophy some day, but I have to say even runner up feels amazing. I also want to say a huge thank you to everyone who voted for HOOKED and got me to the final judging panel. You are awesome and I appreciate your loyal reading–and love of–my stories, very much.

Haven’t read HOOKED yet? Well, I hope you will–and that you get hooked. 😉  Check it out here! 


A Wet Summer Lesson

Photo by Markus Reinhardt

Photo by Markus Reinhardt

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! 

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I’m guilty of complaining about the weather this year.  I can’t help it—it’s been so blah and wet the past few weeks. And when the leaden sky opens and pours buckets and the cold wind kicks up, I know I’m not the only one to bellyache. I’ve heard you!  
A couple of events challenged my negativity.  The first involved a plastic tote of gravel. I was at friend’s house and she came up with the notion that we should craft hot pan mats out of rock and canvas like material. We’d both seen similar done with agates, shiny black stones, etc., and thought, Why not? It could turn out really cool.  
She got her son to get a load of gravel from the back of their property. Surveying the dusty gray rocks, we started to second-guess the genius of our inspiration.  
“They probably look better wet,” she said a bit dubiously.  
I can hardly explain how surprised I was as we washed our rock collection only to have every single blah pebble turn a brilliant colour—purple, green, coppery brown, speckled black and whites, pale peach—it was amazing.
Something about the extreme beauty in something so plain and easily overlooked as the gravel that lies alongside ditches really struck me. Before I could commence gluing, I had to take before and after pictures of the rocks, so I would remember the difference looking at the stones another way made. 
Then one evening I took a walk with one of my sisters. It was almost dry—we thought were safe. And then when it would take as long to walk back to the car as it would to finish our walk, it started to drizzle. And then pour! It was exactly like someone had turned on a shower full blast. The water soaked our hair and jackets, ran in rivers behind our ears and down our necks. We looked at each other and had to laugh. 
The streetlights came on and reflections of the beams—warm yellow circles—shimmered up at us from the glimmering pools of water on the black cement. The clouds were a kaleidoscope of every shade of gray, from soft and light, the colour of dove belly, to sooty almost black—as they crept and sped and turned and bumped across the sky.   
And then I walked another night with one of my other sisters, around 10:00 p.m.  It had rained hard all day and the sky actually seemed lighter with the approaching night than it had in the afternoon. Above the deep green wall of trees beside us, the clouds, as if to prove that the sun was really in the sky somewhere, were opalescent—silvery with deep, glowing pink edges that gradually faded out into a soft purple hue.  
As we oohed about how gorgeous it was, my sister laughed and said something to the effect of, “And here everybody’s been complaining about how awful it a day it was, and we were just being impatient. It’s completely beautiful.”  
And here’s the thing I realized, true about rainy walks, gravel-turned-glorious and many other things: often what we see and feel has little to do with what’s actually right in front of us. Scenery and situations are coloured by mood, by expectations, by past experiences, and sometimes we just need to look at the exact same things slightly differently to appreciate them.   
I won’t make any promises to stop lamenting the lack of sun this July, but I will try to get out, consider the present without comparing it to some other moment, and open my eyes to the beauty that’s everywhere.