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Word by Word

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 I’m reading a book right now which has been recommended to me several times. The book is called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and within the first few chapters I stumbled across something that really hit home for me.

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write.  It was due the next day.  We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.  Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.”

This spoke to me because this is exactly what I’ve been feeling the past 3 months.  The deadline I set for my first draft is just around the corner.  October 30th is 4 days away.  Over the past 3 months, I have sat, on numerous occasions, surrounded by the many journals from England, my grama’s letters, my letters to Adam, Adam’s letter to me, blog posts and emails, completely immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.  It’s a lot.  I would imagine in the journals, notes and letters combined there are several hundred thousand words to go through, to organize and to craft into a story.  It has been overwhelming.  I sometimes don’t even know where to start.

The good news is, I’m still going.  I may not meet my deadline in 4 days, but I am happy to report that I’m still going.  Still showing up to the page and scripting my heart out.  I don’t even feel like it’s really a choice anymore, I am feeling called to do this.  It’s what I think about when I get out of bed in the morning and is with me until I rest my head at night.  I didn’t realize that creativity could have that kind of power over someone, but it does.

There of course has been some FUN in the mix as well.  I’ve joined an online writing group that has brought some incredible ladies into my life who are also on the journey of memoir writing.  It feels amazing to know that I am not alone in all of this and it has been an honour to witness the process for each and every one of them.

The other thing to note, is that the reason I chose October 30th as a deadline, was because it will be 2 years since the launch of Life’s Letter.   Which means this idea has been in my everyday orbit for 2 and a half years.  Knowing that this is likely the halfway point makes me want to jump for joy and cringe, all at the same time.  I’ve already thought so much about this project, that the thought of it haunting me for 2 more years seems unbearable, AND what is also true, is that the desire to see it in print, even just for my future children to hold in their hands, will keep me writing.

When my parents recently came to BC to visit our new home, they brought my Grama’s original letters for me.  I didn’t even have the originals in England for the fear of something happening to them.  Having the letters on my desk, staring up at me as I write, gives me a feeling of connection to the purpose of all of this in the first place.  These letters are a gift and they remind me that my Grama wrote them, almost 7 decades ago, word by word.

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Putting down roots

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Well it’s official, folks.  The hubs and I are putting down some roots alongside the ginormous trees and mountainous skyline out here in B.C.  Last friday, Adam was offered his dream job as a full-time Phys-Ed & Earth Science teacher.  Yay, hubs (insert proud wifey cheer HERE)! And I am happy to announce that along with an exciting start to my photography biz, I have accepted a job just a few hours ago as a bank Customer Relations Coordinator.  If this Friday streak continues, who knows what will happen next Friday…I say a book deal! Just sayin’!

Needless to say, we are thrilled to share this exciting news.  It’s amazing when things just seem to fall into place and reiterate that this move across the country was right for us.  We simply couldn’t have done it alone, so I’m turning this post into a Grateful Friday share.  We can’t thank our family and friends enough who had a hand in helping us with our move – even from afar.  With each and every box packed and article of clothing sorted, the time and energy was much appreciated. I simply couldn’t have cut my wardrobe in half without you, Ashly.  You were ruthless and I love you for it – although I will miss that leopard print sweater.  I still think about it daily.

To my parents and my in-laws, thank you for still loving me after the ‘boxes of childhood memories’ moment.  As my father-in-law, also lovingly ruthless, started holding up Grade 3 class projects, baby blankets & my Justin Timberlake autographed CD, I was officially faced with overwhelm.  They stuck around though and powered through.  That is love, if you ask me.

Thank you to the friends, family and co-workers who came to our going away party and threw me a pool party.  You guys are the best and we miss you daily.  And to the friends who were unable to make it and sent their well wishes, it means so much to know that with technology the world is truly a small, small place.  The letters, messages and well wishes from afar, made the transition even easier.  For anyone making a move in the near future, I recommend giving your mailing address out in advance.  There’s nothing better than getting snail mail on day 2 in a new place.

And last but not least, a huge thank you goes to the 2 incredible people who have opened their home to us for the past month and a half.  Adam’s sister and her husband have scooped us up and made us feel so at home, regardless of the many miles we truly are from the home we know.

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creativity

Create Anyway

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It still amazes me that he didn’t think he could draw.  My Papa Butler, the artist of the family, knew he had a talent for painting, but drawing was a different story.  As my Grama shuffled through the things she thought I’d like to see before I moved across the country, it stopped me dead in my tracks when I saw it.  Among the pocket sized picture book of black and white snapshots of the town they grew up in, yellowed newspaper clippings from the 50’s, and 3 photo telescope keychains that when held up displayed my Papa proudly taking a golf swing, was a gorgeous portrait of my Grama that my Papa had drawn with pencil.

“He didn’t think he was any good at drawing, so he didn’t do it very often,” she said as she flipped through more clippings of their lifetime together.  As I looked at her, I couldn’t help but wonder if these memories brought her back to a different time.  A time when he was still here.  The talent was staring up at me from the table and got me thinking about how we treat ourselves when we create.  Why must we be so sure? How does the self-doubt begin and eventually take over?  It’s almost as if self-doubt comes along for the ride as soon as it hears the word: create.

I’ve been quiet on this space for quite some time.  Only really making noise with big news to share or small updates.  I’m here today to come clean about a few things.  Since deciding to write this book, I’ve had good days and bad days.  On the good days I feel excited and proud and happy to share.  On the bad days, I just can’t seem to quiet the voices that play on repeat in my mind.

“You’re not a writer. Who are you kidding?

What makes you think your story is worthy of a book?

You’ll never pull this off!”

Mean. Mean. Mean.  I know!

Once I’m able to step back and recognize what’s going on, I begin to realize that fear and doubt are fueled by the fire of creativity.  In the past week or so I’ve been trying to access compassion to introduce the two.  I can almost see it now.  Compassion meet Fear.  Fear meet Compassion.  Now converse.

I know for a fact that it’s not just in the creative world that we experience this.  Fear and self-doubt show up every single day for all of us.  Let’s take a lesson from Papa B today.  Do your best & create anyway.  You never know who will see your creation and be inspired to act.

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We made our way West

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On a Tuesday in November we decided to move west.  I can’t say I was very surprised that our lives were leading us there.  I always had the feeling the mountains were calling to me.  Seasons passed and the time eventually came to pack our lives into boxes and begin our trek west.  It hit me somewhere in the middle of Saskatchewan last week just how lucky we were to have spent the past 10 months in the cute little house by the water.

As we packed our final things into the car that day and took one last walk through of the house, we hugged side by side and took in the sight of the empty space.  In that moment I felt full.  I was filled to the brim with gratitude and nostalgia and felt that familiar wave of bittersweetness that happens with these kind of moves.  Gone were the days of the gorgeous lake sunsets, or the echoing voice of the final boarding call for the ferry.  That cute little house with a view held us through our first year of marriage.  We moved in in the fall – my favourite season of the year, we endured the longest winter since the 70′s, and enjoyed its brilliance turning from the sweetness of spring to a highly anticipated summer.

I have a tendency to fall in love with places and this one takes the cake.  Not that it was better than the house that I grew up in, or my very own apartment in the city, it’s just that I had my new husband with me for this one.  There were we’s and ours plastered on the walls that made this place different. It made this place home.

As we made our way west, we stopped for ball games in the states, jammed to tunes through the prairies and were left speechless with the first glimpse of the Rockies.  Those boxes arrived a few days ago and it finally sunk in that we just moved across the country.  Change isn’t always easy, but it sure is an adventure.

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Dear Grama

When journeys collide

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Dear Grama,

I was on a mission that day that not even the rain could disrupt. As I made my way to Westminster Bridge to recreate this photo of you, I remember thinking about the beauty of perspective.  Not only was I grateful to have found this photograph of you in front of this very spot decades earlier, but to be there giggling to myself as the wind blew my umbrella inside out, left me in awe.  How did I get here? Who’s crazy idea was this?  I actually made this happen?

Looking back at this photo now, over a year later, makes me realize that anything is possible.  The incredibly unpredictable journeys that brought you to this bridge, then brought me to this bridge, then gave me the urge to dig up this photograph to have another look are more connected than I ever knew possible.  The layers and years in constant dance with one another creating beauty and rhythm with every step.

I am writing to tell you that in 4 months time, I will hold the first draft of my book in these tiny little hands of mine.  The book that will be laced with both of our fingerprints, decades apart.  I don’t want to do this alone.  I can’t do this alone.  This is why I am telling you.

With a granddaughters love & admiration,

Carly xoxo

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To every “LIKE”

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Since this journey began, my head has been filled with shoulds. I should write. I should blog. I should tweet. I should network. I should learn how to get more followers. And the list goes on.  I was surprised when the greatest lesson I would take away from this journey hadn’t shown up on any lists – the importance of human connection.

Though I spent most of my days connected to the world, through facebook, instagram, twitter, email, texting, letters and just about every other form of technology, I felt a deep loneliness. It didn’t matter how many virtual connections I had received that day, what I longed for the most was physical touch, someone’s presence, or a conversation – live in real time.

The most profound aspects of my journey were the people I met.  On a parkbench, in a library, at a cafe and even on the ship on my voyage home, I noticed the connection between people and what good old fashioned connection has to go up against in this time: cell phone notifications, cameras, texts, selfie photo ops.  I couldn’t help but wonder if we are losing the ability to truly connect with one another anymore.

I’ll never forget the moment in a Starbucks when all I could have ever wished for was someone to sit across from me and share a story or engage in meaningful conversation when I noticed two girls sitting beside me.  Mid conversation one of them took out her phone and took a selfie with her mocha frocca latte frappiccino – cutting her friend off completely, to show her instagram and facebook friends what she was up to. It rocked me.  It didn’t make sense. We have things so backwards it hurts my soul, my heart and my ego when I actually think about the amount of times I’ve done it, too.

Of course I see the perks of it all.  We keep in touch in this now very small world because of it all.  I know instantly what someone is doing in Costa Rica.  I follow a Japanese Hedgehog on Instagram for goodness sake.  But something is happening and our world needs a shift.  My generation is feeling it and the generations after us need to be educated on it.  We need to put our phones away and connect with our grandparents – our elders.  There is a whole generation of people who lived through the world wars that are dying.  I am guilty of it, too.  My grandfather lives 2 minutes from me and I only go for visits every so often. He tells stories.  I need to hear his stories and record them.  There is an urgency about this that needs to be addressed.  Yes there is a place for technology, smartphones and facebook – but I want to stand for connection in its truest form – in real time – with those around you who you love the most.

Our wedding video going viral has made me feel it even deeper.  I have received lovely messages from people near and far.  From Cape Breton to Australia and England to my hometown of Leamington.  People are so sweet and the likes, shares and followers truly do mean a lot.  The truth is, my wish for everyone is that to every “like” there is a hug, a conversation, a touch, a look…in real time, with those around you who mean the most to you.  With those who if you were given one month to live, you would turn down all the computers and hug, soak their soul into your heart forever, talk about the big stuff, the life altering lessons that make you say: right, THAT is what matters most in life.

We are born to connect and there will be a shift.  I can feel it.  I want to be a leader for that shift.  So here I am making a commitment to you.  This week I will visit my papa, I will take in a sunset while resisting the urge to document it, and I will leave my phone at home the next time I go for a coffee date.

What will you do?

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