Making Memories

On Friday my husband and I attended a funeral for someone from our home community. When Harry was a young man he joined the Junior Farmers' organization in Oxford County. My father, also named Harry, was a member. And that is where Harry met the young woman, named Nina, who would become his wife. Mom and Nina became friends and Dad and Harry got along well, with similar interests in farming and music.

The two couples built a strong friendship as young adults and I remember our family spending time with them. They came to our house for visits and we went there. We went to school with their children, Ricky and Judy, and I remember giggling upstairs in a bedroom in their home when we were meant to be sleeping so that our parents could have a game of cards and a good visit. Perhaps we did fall asleep after awhile.

image1(2).jpeg In our one-room school house with our friends, including Judy (in third row) and Ricky (front row).

They moved off the farm before their next child, Kim, started school and went to the city. We didn't have as much connection with them for a number of years, and after their son, Ricky, died from a short illness, it seemed our connections grew thinner. We were busy on the farm in growing season and they were building a new life with work and social life and raising their children. We didn't forget them, but visits didn't happen. I suspect costs of long distance telephone calls might also have had something to do with it.

Years later another mutual friend and cousin connected their daughter, Judy, with me. We've become reconnected, reacquainted and the years between us do not matter anymore. We have a strong friendship. Though we didn't have much connection through those years, it's like we picked up where we were at the time and went on from there. We've visited at their cottage in Southampton, both indoors and out on the lakefront.

DSCF2757.JPGreconnecting with Nina at their cottage in Southampton

Today we celebrated Harry's life in a community of family and friends at his service. It was celebrated in words, music and photos with a chaplain from Winston Park. Among their slide show photos with family and extended family was a picture of Harry, Nina with my parents.

Harry Brown Mar. 2018 JPEG.jpg

It got me to thinking of the memories we make every day with friends and family. We have photos to record many of those times, and we also have memories of gatherings with warm memories along with times that weren't so comfortable. Ones that have been difficult and painful but where we still had the love of our family and friends to keep us going. And our friendship with Harry, Nina and their family never really ended, but sat there waiting for us to reconnect, which we have now as adults.

My little tree

DSCF1561.JPGOur little tree this winter

In May 2016, at my father's memorial service, our family gave out tiny white pine seedlings. Families have had varying success with planting their seedlings. Some planted theirs indoors in small pots but the seedling was not happy and withered and died. Our tree will eventually need a new home where there's more room to grow, but for the meantime, it's quite content where it is.

DSCF0368.JPGLooking healthy here, in summer

We put ours in a pot and set it on the picnic table that first night since we were exhausted by the end of that day. Overnight a small creature climbed the picnic table and unearthed it, leaving it in a heap on top of the table. The critter didn't find what it wanted--food, evidently-- and left. Upon finding the sorry little heap the next morning, my husband replanted it in the pot. We decided that putting it in the ground was best, and to protect the seedling, we put a little fence of chicken wire around the tree. The tree is doing well, and has grown at least three times from its original size.

IMG_20160524_114819.jpgother trees planted by family members

Trees were the theme for my dad's service. He'd learned a lot about them over the years, about how to prune them, trim broken branches and their value in the environment and for human use. He recalled, when we did our family legacy project, that he had climbed most of the trees on his parents' farm -- the farm that he would one day take over with his young wife. And so I grew up, seeing him take care of the land, the buildings and the trees, and us.

The day of the service, I looked around seeing all the little great grandchildren, who at 1, 2, 3 and 4 years of age would likely not remember much about him. The idea came the following week to write a story about my father -- their great grandfather -- so they might have some way of connecting with his life as they grew up. The story was intended for them.

The story went through many revisions, with feedback from my in-person writers' group, an online Revision group and then my own group again. I received many positive affirmations on the value of the story and also suggestions to make the book stronger, one of them being following the seasons. That was one of the best recommendations. So thank you to members of my local critique group and the online Revision group, for the excellent offerings of time and consideration of my story.

IMG_20160517_210341.jpg The tree with its tag and one of my great nephews. This photo by M. Pfaff.

Thumbnail image for 13254508_10156950599670436_3886160185566086026_n.jpg photo by S. Smith

In the foreground, the tiny tree with its memorial tag. Background, the cross that my father created with fallen logs from the farm woodlot, for the church for Lent and Easter services.

I had connected with a graphic designer long before this project came to fruition. Maja Wizor was excited about the possibilites the story presented and agreed to do the illustrations for me. I had the first copies ready for my family in early January 2017. Innovative Press in Millbank did a wonderful job printing my book. My illustrator was pleased to have her copies too.

Seeing that first book brought tears to my eyes -- another memory of Dad to add to all the good ones I already had. And I wondered how he'd feel about being a part of my book.

My sisters bought books for their adult children and grandchildren too. Friends wanted copies too, in fact I received such encouragment that I decided to also bring out a general market edition the following June. It happened with the assistance of Angel Hope Publishing in Drayton, Ontario.

It's been quite a journey from the original idea to the finished product and I thank my sister Joan and nephew Dan for the early suggestions and encouragement they offered, to my illustrator, Maja, my publisher of the general market edition, Glynis Belec and her trusty assistant, Amanda Belec. I also appreciated the promotion by the Tavistock Gazette editor, Bill Gladding and later Helen Lammers-Helps, who wrote articles for Ontario Farmer and Oxford Review that took my book to a wider audience still. It takes a lot of people to make a book.

Carolyn's Book Front Cover layout.jpgcover photo by A. Belec

On the first anniversary of my father's death, the pastor at Trinity Lutheran invited me to read the story, Harry's Trees, as part of the children's sermon. I was truly honoured to do that.

Unless otherwise mentioned, photos are copyright of C. Wilker, owner of this blog

PyeongChang Winter Games

Headline from the Waterloo Region Record today (from Canadian Press):

Virtue and Moir keep Canada in top spot

To think that I saw this couple in their early years of pairs skating makes it very exciting to see them do so well in these Olympic Games. Though I would have liked to see that performance, other critical things got in the way, such as business and the need to sleep. Still I'm encouraged that the Canadian team is doing so well.

I've enjoyed watching figure skaking over the years. This couple performed at our hometown figure skating carnival one year and we were privileged to watch them. Little did we know the drive and effort that would keep them going to this place.

Much work and many hours of training go into a successful performance. Having two sisters who've been in figure skating, one in singles skating and the other on a precision team, I recognize that much effort that goes into making all those moves look so easy, but they aren't. I've watched practices and test days. A lot of nerve and energy go into the sport. There's both the physical effort and the grace of dance that make it so powerful to watch. Perhaps it seem so much more powerful from one who's felt not the smoothest on ice.

And still more as Gabrielle Daleman takes gold after her singles skate. Yeah for the Canadian team! Keep going! We're cheering you on.

And another link to Winter Games figure skating and other sports

On teaching a blog class


It never fails, when I start to teach a blog class at the community centre, I have adult students who have very little experience with technology and especially of things related to internet and blogging. I also have had students who cannot remember their email address and password,something they need to build their first account. Tough way to start.

We've had students working on iPads and tiny tablets to borrowing someone else's computer and not really knowing how to use it. But in the last two classes that experience had changed to a few who are already tech savvy, and from whom I learned a thing or two about technology.

My current students, two gentlemen who are brothers, already have varying experience with blogging and have come to learn more. One of them has quite an active blog for which I commended him. He has a great start and I'm challenged on what else to teach. Quite often it takes a whole class to figure out the meme, a blog title and setting up the account. Some have been so flustered that they haven't pursued the blog or seemed frozen in fear. Nevertheless, for those hardy folks who stay with it, there are still things to teach and I learn more along the way.

If a student who is well travelled wants to write about their experiences, they have much to write about and still there's the question of how to start. Too narrow a theme or meme, as it's called, and it's hard to get the interest of many people. Some of the top blogs in Canada are about travel. We talked in our last class about popular topics. They include food, healthy living, diet, moms with kids, home and gardening, books and crafts and home renovations and more.

While I may not have travelled abroad or travel often, I can find topics closer to home for my blog, Storygal, about life love and gardening. And I do like to follow travel blogs when the photos are excellent and the writing is conversational and easy to read.

If you're planning to get into blogging, you may need some help to get started. Take a class, find bloggers to follow and engage in their conversations wherever they spread their posts, over social media and on their site. Even liking their posts shows the blogger someone is interested. Best wishes to you as you set out on a new endeavour.


On the brink of 2018


It's after 9 in the evening, December 31st, as I write this last post of 2017. I say goodbye soon to the year that's brought varying emotions, accomplishments, and reaffirming of friendships and making new ones too. It's been a year of releasing two new books, Good Grief People, a shared venture with five other authors on the meaning of grief, and the other, Harry's Trees, a direct result of the life my father lived and what he shared with me and others in our family. Together with all the opportunities to promote our books, speak and do storytelling, I am grateful for them all.

Good Grief People Final Product.jpg

Carolyn's Book Front Cover layout.jpg

It's a been a year of celebrating achievements with others in my circle of writers, and a year of saying goodbyes to people we've known and loved. A year of supporting friends who have had challenges, even as they lent an ear at earlier times when I needed to share my struggles.

This evening as I look online for others who mark this last evening of 2017, we can look no further than our own Canadian Prime Minister, as recorded on the CBC news this evening.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a statement released Sunday, reflected on the country's accomplishments in the past year, as well as its 150th anniversary of Confederation, but added "we still have a lot of hard work left to do."

"In 2018, let's continue to celebrate the values that unite us - openness, compassion, equality, and inclusion," he said.

"Let's move forward together, put those values into practice, and work to build a better future for all of us."

By this time, Auckland, New Zealand, has already rung in the New Year

Fireworks kick off the New Year in Auckland as New Zealand bids farewell to 2017

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders took to streets and beaches, becoming among the first in the world to usher in 2018.

You don't have to go further than your own backyard--maybe not in the extreme cold tonight--to decide what you will do to promote peace and goodwill in your family and your own community. The goals you're pursuing or intend to pursue. Things of the heart and soul that will bode well for you.

And now for the most recorded song at New Year's, Auld Lang Syne, which is essentially bringing good wishes for the year ahead. The song is an old Scottish tune that's usually credited to Robert Burns in 1788, though Burns admitted that he'd based it off of various Scottish songs and poems. Read here to find out more on why this became a tradition.

Happy New Year to you! Many blessings for the year ahead!

O, Come Let Us Adore Him

DSCF1593.JPGO come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

Translator: Frederick Oakeley; Author: John Francis Wade

Last evening we had a beautiful and peaceful Christmas Eve service at church. Rev. John Boehmer delivered a meaningful sermon about God coming as a baby that we might stop and notice amid our troubling and, at times, trying world. I loved his story about the boy, Mischa, in the orphanage and keeping Jesus warm. I'd love to read it again and again.

We drove home in fresh snow and we do have a White Christmas. I rearranged my creche figures to show the baby in the manger, the way artists think it might have looked.

This morning, Christmas morning, dawned bright and clear, the trees shuddering in the wind and awhile ago, light snow blowing off the workshop roof. Likely pretty cold out there, yet the sky is blue with some puffy white clouds.

If you're travelling today, dress warm and drive safely and have a good day with family or friends. And remember Christ coming as a baby that God might be with us.

Oh, Christmas Tree

Our Christmas tree is an eclectic collection of memories. The ornaments come from a variety of places and people.

DSCF9527.JPGThis machine stitched emblem was a gift from Elaine, a former member of our Business Associates Breakfast.

DSCF9520.JPG This one is made from a gourd that's carved out to resemble a bird house. I bought it from a vendor at Christmas in Paris a couple of years ago. It's delightful.

DSCF9522.JPG This ornament came from my friend Karleen who now lives in Colorado Springs. I put it on the tree every year to remember the diversity of culture in that area that includes native Americans.

DSCF9525.JPGOne of my pewter ornaments made in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. This one of many was a gift from my friend Maryann who lives out east.

DSCF9524.JPGSanta, ready for the beach, from New Zealand. A gift from our daughter, Adrienne, and son-in-law, Tyler, when they lived across the world from us. They're not likely to forget that Christmas when they couldn't get a turkey dinner.

DSCF9528.JPGOne of my favourite angels, from the Angel Store in St. Jacobs, Ontario. I love how the light shines through it.

DSCF9530.JPGA lovely beaded ornament, one of a set, made by my writer friend, Kelly, some time ago. Still goes on my tree every year.

DSCF9517.JPG My tree with other ornaments and a tree skirt that I made in my craft business days. A crocheted snowflake made by my mother-in-law, a hand-print ornament with my granddaughter's hand, a broom doll, also from craft days. A cross-stitched elf made by a choir mate, Pat, when I sang in a particular choir. Love them all.

What memories does your tree hold? Can you name them?

Posting at The Word Guild

This week I posted at The Word Guild authors' site as I do once a month.

A Promise Waiting

Snow falls softly here as I write today. No doubt there'll be more snow by the end of the day. People were out raking leaves just over a week ago, but soon the cold wind came, shooting like an arrow down the tunnel of the city's main street.
Tuesday evening I'd been out to meet with writer friends from our critique group, for a little social time before Christmas. On the way back to my car, the wind pushed against me, making me shiver and my teeth chatter. Though I wore a warm winter coat, my legs were cold. I thought, Here comes winter.
Coloured lights remind us that Christmas will come soon and the snow with it. In some points north, I'm sure they have plenty of it.
Winter, in our part of the world, begins near Christmas usually, and the nights are darker. Soon we'll have the longest night or shortest day of the year, however you want to look at it. At that time of year some folks mark Blue Christmas because of losses they've suffered. Others struggle with diminishing sunlight and seasonal affective disorder.
It may also be appropriate to match that early winter in our part of the world with the Advent season in our Christian church--a time of waiting, a time to remember how things were for people before the Christ child came to the world. People were under duress from the Roman government, and now it seemed they wanted even more taxes to pay their way, from common folks who worked hard just to get by. Another census so that all the world could be counted. All their world, as they knew it. It seemed they had little hope. ...
Read more here.

Beyond Your Comfort Zone

dining hall.jpeg

At the end of Day One of the District 86 Toastmasters Fall conference, some attendees were still on the dance floor. From my hotel room I could hear the beat of the drums. I like to dance but the strobe lights that rotate as the music plays are not kind to my senses and eyes. They can cause a migraine and that's not what I need in the middle of a jam-packed conference. And so I retired for the night, but not to go to sleep right away. I had a blog post to write for Saturday the 11th.
Doris DTM.jpeg My friend, Doris Tuckett, one of three members of our club who earned her Distinguished Toastmasters designation this year.
We'd eaten a good meal, served by the hotel staff, watched the banner parade directed by Area 61 Director, Chris O'Brien, in a lively and engaging style. We'd also celebrated 'Of the Year' awards as well as visiting with other Toastmasters. Three members from our club, the Energetics Toastmasters, were to receive their medal for the Distinguished Toastmaster designation, and I wanted to be there to help them celebrate that achievement.
Read more here:

Crafts for Christmas

My sister Joan and I once had a crafts business, actually we each had our own, but we worked on craft shows together. We bought fabric and trims and made things like tree skirts, Christmas tree ornaments, and we lined picnic baskets and outfitted them with dishes. We geared up for the shows throughout summer and by fall, we had a reasonable amount prepared and tagged, ready to go. We also had aprons, tea cozies and much more and booked ourselves for several Christmas craft shows each season. Although we've moved past our craft business, I suspect we still like to make things, if only for ourselves.

Now that we both have grandchildren, it's fun to explore crafts again, as a way of entertainment. This year, the Christmas gathering on our mother's side is in our hands again, and so we've been thinking of decorations for the tables and for a craft for the children.

As we talked about pine cones and what we might do with them, I went on Pinterest ( to see what I might find there of interest. I was looking for something easy and safe that my oldest granddaughters might help me with. My sister has gathered large cones and found a place to get small ones too, and laid them out to dry.

Take a pinecone and felt to create a cute owl or other animals ;) Een dennenappel en vilt maken samen een leuke uil of andere leuke beestjes :)

Whimsy Love:

These owls will require bits of felt for eyes, or googly eyes, to glue on, plus the wings as well. A small gue gun that's not so hot would be safer than my large one when small children are around.

Karácsonyi toboz díszek (SamySeven) -


This is what we have in mind for the table centrepieces. My sister and I have ribbon, and I have cord for the strings. A bit of glue dabbed on the tips and sprinke glitter on (white or colours) and they're ready to set to dry. We can then use them for our Christmas tables for our family gathering.

Wonderful Pine Cone Christmas Trees for You to Craft  -


At the dollar store, I found sparkles in various colours in bottles. A bit of glue and ribbon and a sheet under the table to catch all the glitter that escapes us and we're set. Dishes of glittery pine cones could be our table centrepieces, and then for the children's activity, either the owls shown above or the reindeer below would be easy enough for even the smaller children to decorate.

Christmas Lollipop Noses


I think we'll use items from nature as much as possible this year, just because it's available and inexpensive. And not too time-consuming for our busy lives.

What will you put out for your Christmas decorations?

*All the links are shared from Pinterest. Please go there for instructions on creating each item. Thank you to these artists who share their creativity.