Grandma Betty

Redheads Writing in Cafes and Chantilly Lace

Do you believe in ghosts? I sure as hell do. I believe there are many kinds of ghosts, some that can’t leave this realm, those who don’t want to pass over and those who show up once in a while like right now, to check in on you. I know this is fact because I just got a whiff of Chantilly Lace.

My Grandma Betty smelled of baking and Chantilly Lace. Whenever you hugged her you would always breathe it in and as a kid, I just assumed that was how she smelled, until the day I found the little pink box with the fluffy white powder puff. The minute I sat down this morning to write about her, I got a very scent of her perfume surround me. I’m now feeling extremely nostalgic, I miss that woman so very, very much.

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Elizabeth Smart was more than just my grandmother, she was a force. She emigrated to Canada from Scotland, got married, had fourteen children and who knows how many grandchildren followed after that, however, she was more than that. She was neighbourhood warrior, standing up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. I’ve heard many stories about people being chased by the cops for minor occurrences hiding out at her place, she’d then talk the cops down from arresting them. My grandma was a badass. You also didn’t mess with her family. Oh no, you didn’t! Was my grandma Bonnie Parker, no, pay attention, she was a Betty!

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The older I grow, the more I realize how much I am like her. When you met Grandma, she was welcoming, chatty and her laugh would fill the room. She loved to help her community, was loving and was always there if you needed comforting. She also relished time on her own, reading, knitting, sewing and of course, baking. Like myself, she was an Extroverted Introvert. She made the most incredible, melt in your mouth shortbreads, currant cake and pies. To this day, I’m the only one who has nailed her currant cake recipe. The one main thing we have in common, try to corner us, and we come out fighting. My Grandma put up with zero crap.

When I was fifteen, I went through a really shit time in school. I was the weirdo, the girl who dressed all in black, had the weird hair and carried books about ghosts everywhere she went. There were four particular girls who would verbally abuse me. As much as you interacted or ignored them, this still wears you down, especially if you are a teenager. Being told one too many times to basically suck it up, it can’t be that bad, I stopped talking to anyone about it and let it silently eat away at me and it really did. After one particularly horrible day, I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I started crying during my walk home after school. Little did I know, Grandma Betty was walking right behind me. I have no idea how long she was behind me, but I know it was long enough for her to figure out something wasn’t quite right, because her fifteen-year-old granddaughter rarely cried and especially not in public.

Then she was standing beside me. Just like every time I’ve needed her.

I told her what had happened and she listened without interrupting, then these words… the words that have always stuck with me, the words that I repeat over and over whenever anyone tries to belittle me, talk down to me or insult me.

Grandma: Why do you care what they think.
Me: (starts to explain again what happened)
Grandma: Yes, but why do you care what they think.
Me: (starts to explain again what happened)
Grandma: Why do you care what they think.
Me: (getting it) Oh.
Grandma: Those girls aren’t worth it. Who cares what they think.

My grandma stopped and hugged me. I finally got it. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You need to be yourself, do what makes you happy. Be the person you want to be. This is a hard message for a teenager to grasp and it did take me a while to accept it, but when you repeat it to yourself over and over, it does eventually sink in.

Did the verbal abuse stop. No. But I not only found a tool to handle it better, I had someone to talk to that would actually listen to me and not brush it off as teenage angst. For those who are wondering, why didn’t the school do anything? It was the late seventies/early eighties and trust me a small town high school… didn’t understand that bullying was a horrible thing for a kid to go through. That said, I did have one teacher who was also one of my heroes. One day I will write more about Mr. Bob Rix.

Grandma Betty is my badass, give no shits hero. I miss her every day and when I get that whiff of Chantilly Lace I know she is checking in on me to make sure I’m doing ok.

 

 

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2013 Let’s Do This!

flapper2A new year and a new beginning!  I rang in my new year my way. Out with my ladies on the 30th and home writing on the eve.  2013 is going to be different, I can feel it in my gut.  13 has always been a positive, lucky number for me.  I know a lot of you made resolutions as you rang in the new year, I don’t do that.  Instead I make lists of the things I want to be part of my year and will make happen this year.  Here goes, no particular order.

 

 

Friends and the family I made – you made me smile and laugh and wish
Writing
Love – finding it, keeping it
Positivity
Health
The Last Single Girl – a dream and reality
Spoken Word – reading, creating, being
Music – seeing more of the artists I love, discovering new ones and relearn the guitar so I can make my own music
Happy heart and lighter soul
Silent Movie
California
Great Britain
Discovering something new every day
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Toronto’s Indie Scene – bigger, better, bolder
Novel – you are almost there
Vaudeville – you are on the verge
Branching out on my own – I got the knowledge, I got the power!
Learn
Perform
Love, Shortbread And A Woman Named Betty
Memorize
Publish
Naughty Haiku’s
Books
Dance. Laugh. Live!

The Next Big Thing Interview

I was asked by my friend and fellow scribe Heather Wood to participate in “The Next Big Thing” project. TNBT is a way for wordsmiths to promote upcoming work. Basically, a writer answers ten questions about a new work and then get other writers to do the same. However, I’ve added a bit of a twist to my list.  I think that playwrights, bloggers and songwriters should be part of this as well, so… here are my Next Big Thing Q & A’s:


Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?  The Treadle

Where did the idea come from for the book? I was I was around 5 or 6 my Mom inherited her Grandma Brown’s Treadle sewing machine (made in 1889).  I became obsessed with it.  I would actually play games where I would open the drawers and pretend there were magical creatures hidden in them.  As I got older, my obsession turned to designing doll clothes, then eventually my own clothes.  I learned how to sew on it.  As I sat there running the petal with my foot I would come up with stories about the kinds of women who might have also used it.

What genre does your book fall under?  Literary Fiction.  Though there will be a bit of historical fiction in it as well, as it spans time from the early 1900’s to mid 1980’s.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
Though they aren’t Scottish (Elizabeth is Scottish), I picture a young Elizabeth played by Kate Winslet and older Elizabeth would be Helen Mirren.  The book itself has 3 female protagonists.  Elizabeth, Carrie and Lizzie. Grandmother, Mother, Daughter.  I’m not sure who I’d cast for the rest of the characters.  Knowing me, it would be a mix of quirky Canadian and British actors.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Three women, three generations, with one very powerful object that ties them all together.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Once the manuscript is done, I will be sending it off to a publisher.  I’ve already lived through the world of self-publishing and feel this novel deserves so much more.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The story has been with me since I was a kid. I finally sat down and started working on it between other projects over the last 2 years.


What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  I don’t like comparing what I’m writing to other books, because they all stand on their own, although I am inspired by many writers.  Just too many to list here.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  A few people inspired this book.  My Great Grandma Brown, whose Treadle sewing machine I inherited, my Grandma Betty, My Grandma Carrie and my mother.  All strong women who have had a lot of influence on the woman and writer I have become.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  Strong female characters.

And now check out The Next Big Things of these wonderful writers.
Kat Leonard
Cathy McKim
Monica S. Kuebler
Brandon Pitts
Marcy Rogers

Love and Shortbread and a woman named Betty.


I sit here with tears rolling down my face, missing someone harder than I ever have.  A red duo-tang tight in my arms, in it’s pages, memories of a woman I think about daily.  A woman who inspires me even though she is no longer here, a woman who would be telling me to smarten up and stop feeling sorry for myself, a woman who could give you a hug,  followed by a laugh, washing away all your fears.

Today I started beating myself up again for not earning enough as an artist, not doing enough to succeed. I dreaded opening my mail box knowing there would be bills inside, bills I might not be able to pay. Questioning why I keep doing this if all I do is struggle.  I put the key in the lock, turned and took a deep breath as I opened the door. Stuffed snugly in that mailbox, amongst the bills was a white padded envelope.  My Mom had told me something special was on it’s way.  Something one of a kind.  I had no clue what she was sending me, but it was my Mom and I figured it would be something sent out of love.  I wasn’t expecting this.  I wasn’t expecting for my Grandmother to jump out at me.

As I pulled back the front red cover, I saw the title Recipes By Grandma and to the right of it, there she was in a black and white photo, in an apron flashing her famous smile.  Instantly I was overwhelmed by how much I missed her, how long it’s been since I last heard her laugh.  When we were kids, we couldn’t wait to go visit her, at Christmas we didn’t care about gifts, it was her shortbreads, the mittens and the thick handmade socks that we wanted.  Each birthday for as long as I can remember, she gave me a tea cup and saucer, all of which I still use.  She taught me how to knit and how to bake.  She taught me that nothing is so bad that you can’t find humour in it.  She taught me that I was important. I wished I could have been a better granddaughter, but I won’t fail to make her proud.

This book, this treasure is from my Aunt Margie.  My aunt is a beautiful, generous woman who put this book together with her own hands.  It contains all of my Grandma’s recipes (in her handwriting) and photos of her taken throughout her life.  I recently told a dear friend that I was working on two cookbook ideas.  One is almost written, the second was a book I wanted to do of home style cooking, converting my Grandmother’s recipes to Vegan versions.  A week later, I hold the original recipes in my hands.  Aunt Margie, you have no idea how much I cherish you or how much I love that you made me this book?  Do you know I think about her every day, do you know I talk about her every single week? Do you know that every person who knows me, knows a Betty story?  Earlier today on my Facebook I said I needed inspiration. My inspiration has arrived.  You have both inspired me.  This book wasn’t just about recipes, inside are photos I adore and others I have never seen before.  The pages are bursting of Grandma Betty and Aunt Margie’s love.  Aunt Margie even wrote a poem.  I am going to reprint it here. Aunt Margie,  I hope you don’t mind.  It is the most beautiful thing anyone has written to me. Thank you.  I love you!

The letter/poem.

Dear Carolina,

My Mother – your Grandmother – one of the same
What a beautiful woman with a wonderful name
She cooked, she baked, she whistled, she sewed
In her wee wee house by the side of the road
She had many children and loved every one
But she adore her grandchildren each time they come
Her past time was knitting scarfs, mitts and socks
Which everyone received in their own special box
She never missed a birthday – everyone got a card
Enclosed was some money – on her pension – that was hard
But that did not stop her – our angel of old
Who had a memorable laugh and a heart of gold
I often sit and ponder over a cup of tea
and hear her words come back to me
“A pinch of this and a handful of that
and make sure that pastry is rolled out flat”
The thick Scottish brogue she used once in awhile
She had a pretty round face and a welcoming smile
She sang like a bird – could carry a tune
And if she could afford it – she would give you the moon
So enjoy this booklet I had fun putting together
It hold memories of Elizabeth – a wonderful treasure