I don’t know about you, but I love volunteering. My mother started me off when I was a kid at the local Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). I ended up volunteering at the CNIB for many years. It was a treatment centre and residence for children in their teens or 20s who were blind and developmentally handicapped.
I did many different jobs at the CNIB, such as, the pet corner where I would teach the children how to look after animals. A few wanted to get a cat and I’d help them with that. For a year, I travelled from one guy’s house to the SPCA (animal shelter) where he played with the cats while I supervised. I also was involved with some fund raising events.
No matter where I was, I would find somewhere to volunteer. While in university, I helped a blind woman with her classes mostly by reading her books and lessons so she could type them in Braille. I kept in touch with her for many years and was there when she received her guide dog. She never stopped smiling and it was beautiful to see her walk with her head held high.
When I moved to Brantford, and since I knew no one here, I thought it would be best for me to find some volunteer jobs. I signed up first with the Brantford General Hospital. I work in the emergency waiting room which is a lot of fun because it always changes. You’ll never know who you are going to meet and what will happen that day.
I also joined the volunteer team at the Grand River Community Health Centre. My first job was to interview all the volunteers and write their profiles. I enjoyed that so much and it also encouraged me to write. When I finished the 45 profiles, my new job became taking pictures of events and programs at the centre. I love taking photos so I’m loving this job. I also recently spent 7 hours compiling surveys for a staff member.
When I have a free afternoon, I go to the SPCA to hug the cats. I don’t want another cat (had to put down my 20 year old cat last year) but I do enjoy them so it’s fun to play with them. I definitely don’t look at the dogs. I don’t want any reason to get another. When Kira dies, I want to be free for a few years.
Volunteering is very important to me because it gets me out of the house. An author’s life is a lonely one since you work at home alone. I need a reason to be around people. Also, since I’m still new to Brantford, I need to meet the community.
But, of course, that satisfaction you receive when you’ve done something positive with your day is always a great feeling. My work is appreciated and many people say ‘thank you’ when I’ve helped them, which is always nice to hear.
We have to give more of ourselves to our community, making it a better place to live. What’s great about volunteering is you can volunteer anywhere and do anything that interests you. Also for young people, volunteering is essential to learn new skills and improve their abilities. I volunteered many places when I was without a job and sometimes those opportunities turned into paid work.
So, I encourage you to volunteer, if it’s possible. I know many people are very busy with their lives but, if you have the time, you should try it.
I love dogs. My parents adopted a Miniature Schnauzer when I was about 4 years old. I named him Muffin after my favourite character in my favourite show: Mr. Dressup. After Muffin, my parents adopted Hutch (a yellow lab), Maddie and then Christie (both golden retrievers). They were all great dogs.
For a year, I volunteered with the SPCA until it got too hard to leave the dogs in those little cages. Considered buying a farm and adopting all the dogs, but that was, of course, unrealistic. I have also worked at a kennel for a year, cleaning up lots of doggie poo, but I learned so much about the breeds.
In 2005, I decided to adopt my first dog, and I wanted a big one. One day, I was reading the classifieds and saw an ad giving away a puppy. I called the owner and she said Sheba was half lab and half poodle so I’m thinking a large dog.
When I got to her house, the owner was sitting on her front porch with little Sheba (what a terrible name for a dog) on a rope. I asked the woman about the dog and she told me she had never been taken on a walk, never in a car, never anywhere but the backyard. At a year old, she still wasn’t even house broken. I looked at her and her ribs were showing.
I realized I couldn’t leave her with this woman so I took her home and immediately changed her name to Kira.
The rope around Kira’s neck was so worn that it took 10 minutes to cut it off. I took her for a walk at Churchill Park, Westdale, Hamilton, Ontario. The park has a path through the woods with hills on either side so I thought this would be a good place to take Kira. When we got there, I let Kira off the leash. Poor thing thought she had died and gone to heaven. She has never strayed from me.
Kira is now 16½. She will be 17 in May. She is deaf and blind so can’t be taken for walks anymore. She loves to eat but is still trim at about 25 pounds. Because of her white and tan colouring, she doesn’t look her age, but she is a lot of work now.
I have to stay up until at least 11 p.m. to let Kira out. I have to wait that long because she usually will poo by then. I have to get up at 7 a.m. to put her out before she messes in the house, which, unfortunately, happens often.
I love Kira more than life itself, but I need to get away on a vacation. The first place I’d like to go is to an all inclusive somewhere in the Caribbean; I don’t care where. I just want to sit on a beach with a good book and a margarita, but I can’t go until Kira dies. She’s just too much work for my mother or anyone else.
When Kira dies, I’m going to take a break from pets to travel for a few years. If I miss having a dog, I can foster one for a few weeks, then give it back and travel. After I’ve been everywhere I want to go, I will get another dog, probably a golden retriever from Golden Rescue.
So, in the meantime, I’m looking after my sweet old dog, giving her as much love as possible.
It’s about time I wrote to let you know what’s happening in my life.
In December of 2016, I moved from hell to heaven. My life was littered with negatives. There was nothing positive about my life other than I was writing and self-publishing novels. I was in a horrible position with a heavy debt and no way to pay it back. Selling my house was my only option.
At first, I was dead against selling it but, when I realized it would solve all my problems, I was gung-ho. Selling it was the best decision I ever could have made. I paid off my loan so now I have no debts and I’m living off the money from the sale.
I moved to a town of 92,000 called Brantford; the home of Wayne Gretsky (and his parents still live here). It’s a lovely place with everything you could ever want, and it only takes 15 minutes to get across town.
To get out and keep busy, I have 3 volunteer jobs. One is every Wednesday at the hospital in the emergency waiting room. I help people find their loved one in emergency, do errands for the nurses and deliver lunch trays. I love volunteering there because it is so opposite from anything I’ve ever done, and I get to meet a lot of really nice people. It’s amazing how friendly people are in this city.
At the community centre, I was hired to interview all the volunteers and write their profiles. It took me 5-6 months but I got through them writing about 45 profiles. Now they have me taking pictures of events and programs at the centre.
My third volunteer job is with the SPCA (animal shelter). I go hug and play with the cats. I had a wonderful cat but I had to put her down last year. It killed me but when I got home from the vet’s, I realized I didn’t have to clean a litter box again. I was thrilled. So I can play with the cats with absolutely no desire to adopt one. Looking after my old dog Kira is enough work for me.
While writing those profiles, I became inspired again to write. I hadn’t written in almost a year because of all the negative stress in my life. I had 2 female friends who were very negative and a boyfriend who made me more miserable than happy. I had to get away from these people and find a better place to live, and I found Brantford.
Living here has changed my life so much for the better. I love where I’m living. It’s a very nice house in a very quiet and safe neighbourhood. I just have to drive to the top of my street, turn left and I can drive straight to Hamilton to visit my mother.
I have met some wonderful people through my volunteering. I’m getting out and having fun. They are all positive, happy people who make me smile and enjoy life. I’m so involved with this city and its many events. I have never been so busy.
But the best thing is, I’m writing again. I have just finished my 6th novel entitled, Where True Beauty Lies: A Modernization of the Book of Esther. It’s based on the biblical book but my main characters are the President Thomas Edmonds and Esther is Katie in my novel.
The novel is with my proofreading editor now. I’ll get it back in November. Then I’ll be passing it off to 2 good friends who will read it over and try and find any spelling mistake or typo we all missed. Once all the corrections have been made, I will be publishing it.
For those of you who have read That Truthful Place, I’m happy to advise that I’m now working on the sequel. It’s just flowing out of me. If you liked star trek, you’ll like this book. I always wanted to write a star trek episode so this is my chance.
I hope you are all doing well and having fun. Being happy makes a huge difference in your life especially when everything is positive, exciting and challenging. I’m in a better place now than I have in years. Life couldn’t be better.
Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written to you, but life has been in the way.
On December 7th, I moved to a different city 40 minutes away from where I lived. I started 2 new volunteer jobs. And my father has been hospital.
The move was great. Didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I moved. Decided to change to a different city so I could begin a new life with new adventures. I picked Brantford and found a wonderful house. I am so much happier here and Kira loves the big backyard.
Since I know no one here, the best thing I could do was volunteer. I work at the Brantford General Hospital in the ER (emergency) waiting room. I go once a week for 3 hours. (Noon to 3 pm on Wednesdays.) It’s a wonderful opportunity. I don’t do much but help people find their loved one, bring people water or chairs, do errands for the nurses, and bring people lunch.
But these simple tasks are appreciated. Every time I have to interact with someone and help them in some way, they give me a smile and say thank you. That’s all I need and I’m so glad to help. I do come home exhausted but was great to get out of the house.
And I found the perfect volunteer opportunity with the Grand Rivers Community Health Centre. My job is to interview all 80 volunteers and write their profile. The Centre will use them for newsletters and on their website. Talk about a great opportunity for me eh? I’m really enjoying interviewing and meeting everyone.
Then there was my father who is 84 with pneumonia. The doctors and nurses had us scared because they said he was going to die in hours or days. Well he didn’t die but his lungs are gone. He has to remain on oxygen for the rest of his life. While he was in hospital, mom was going for lunch and then for dinner to help him. I returned to Hamilton for a few days and stayed with my mom to help. I went in for dinner so she didn’t have to go in twice.
He’s now in a rehab facility in a good retirement home. It’s much easier and closer for mom. He is well taken care of there so he doesn’t need my mother more than once a day for assorted things. He is much better but his progress is slow. He is there for at least 3 months. After that? Who knows.
So as you can see, I’ve been busy. I’ve missed writing to you but just haven’t felt like writing. I started a few blogs but never finished them. My 7th novel is on chapter 13. I know what I want to write but I just don’t feel like writing. I’m kind of burnt out after writing and publishing 6 books in 3 years.
So here I am writing to you wondering if you’ve missed my blogs or wondering what’s happening in my life.
Would you like to hear more?
Any way, I’m very happy now. I love my new house and it’s in a great, quiet neighbourhood. Met a few of the neighbours and they are lovely people. Brantford is a town of 94,000 so everything is close. I’m enjoying exploring the area and finding places and stores.
I hope you’ve noticed that I haven’t been blogging or active on the various necessary sites. I’m sorry. I hope you’ve missed my words. I've missed talking to you.
Life has taken over. There is so much going on. I must sell my home and I want to move to a different town but I’m having problems finding a suitable home to rent. Many people seem interested in living in that town so good places are dear.
And lots to do when you decide to move. Luckily, I’ve moved many times in my life so it’s old hat to me. Between the time I left my parents’ house at 20 until the present day, I’ve lived in around 30 different houses or apartments. I know how to move.
Typically, I’m a very organized person. I love everything in order and to plan my life. I work out all the details in advance so there’s no stress. I’m also an avid packer and I enjoy going through my belongings. I spent the weekend going through boxes of old papers, bills, and documents. One box had papers from 2004. About time I got to it eh?
I guess I’m a little burnt out from writing. I self-published 5 novels in 2 years. That’s a lot of work. I’m just not interested in writing. I have a new novel (a modernization of the Book of Esther from the Bible). I’m on chapter 13. I know what I want to write but I just can’t seen to get the words flowing.
This blog is the first thing I’ve been able to write in months. I hope you can understand my predicament. I’m hoping once I move, I’ll begin writing again.
If it weren’t for movies, I would have gone insane years ago. They are my muse, my inspiration and my focus. As soon as I wake up, I begin my day with a movie. I pick one according to my mood. I always have one playing in the background even when I write. Most movies I have seen many times so I don’t have to watch to follow it.
I can lift up my eyes at any point and watch the TV screen providing a break from the concentration. I need the background noise to help me get through the day. Writing can be a lonely career and the dog doesn’t speak English. I’ve tried to teach her but she’s stubborn.
Movies help me through every mood. I have collected over 300 DVDs as well as subscribing to the movie channels and Netflix therefore lots of choices. I can easily find a movie to match any mood I’m in. And I have lots of moods.
My favourite movies are the Shawshank Redemption, Hunt for Red October, Usual Suspects and Apollo 13. I enjoy movies with a mostly male cast. These are great movies and can easily inspire me to write. I also love comedy and enjoy Kevin Kline, Jim Carrey and Martin Lawrence movies.
Tom Hanks is my favourite actor. I’ve been watching him ever since Bosom Buddies, a comedic series beginning his career. I’ve seen most of his movies as well as the movies of Meryl Streep. She is my favourite actress. She’s just brilliant and can imitate anyone.
If I had a chance, I would thank all the directors, actors and crew for making movies. Thank them for helping me through life and giving me the strength to carry on.
She loved to sit on my lap and purred loudly when she was patted or brushed.
People say cats are difficult to introduce into a new home. Not Emma. She was moved into probably 20 different places. Upon entering each new home, I set up her stuff and put her in her litter box so she knew where it was. Then she would tour the new place checking out everything. When done, she would curl up somewhere and sleep. She never required more of an adjustment.
I adopted Emma from the Huntsville SPCA (rescue/pound). The shelter had put some cats in cages outside so they could get some fresh air and sun. I saw Emma immediately and knew she was the one for me. She was tiny and ever so sweet at 6 months of age. She was full of energy and cuddled with me.
In 1995, I was living in an apartment in Toronto and I wanted a pet. I couldn’t look after a dog in such a setting so settled on a cat. My apartment was on the 5th floor of a building at St. George and Bloor, downtown Toronto. I had a balcony and Emma liked going out there.
But one day she fell off. I found myself looking for her and she wasn’t in the apartment. I looked over the balcony and I could see people pointing to something. I ran downstairs and found Emma on the window ledge. She had fallen 5 stories but she wasn’t too bad off. She had trouble jumping up for a while but she survived the fall. I was so happy.
When I got Kira, I felt so bad for Emma. She was terrified her and stayed under the bed for 3 months. Then it took another 3 months for her to leave the bedroom. Must have taken 3 years before she would walk across the living room floor. But then Kira and Emma became the best of friends and Emma had no further fear of Kira. Emma would walk right by Kira’s nose. Sometimes Emma would be on my lap and Kira would jump up on me too. That was fun.
But now Emma is dead. It feels so weird not to have her in the house. I’m not getting another cat so donating all her stuff to the Hamilton SPCA. I’m so glad I never have to clean another litter box. So tired of that. And there are other small benefits. I can leave my backdoor open all day so Kira can go in and out, but I would close it around 9 pm so Emma didn’t get out and then be outside when I wanted to go to bed. Now that Emma is no longer here, I leave the door open until I go to bed.
I will never forget Emma. She was a great pet and she had a good life.
Hug your pets for me,
Many people have passed through my life. I may have met them in school, at the train station, bus stop or youth hostel. And there are some I’d like to be in contact with again. Here are three:
When I was 13 years old, my best friend was Deepti Gupta. Her mother was a wonderful cook and they invited me to dinner many times. Her family also included me in social Indian events and special holidays. I loved being her friend. I remember Deepti as a really sweet girl who was always smiling. We discussed travelling to India to visit her family but, being as we were only 13, our parents wouldn’t let us go. Unfortunately, her family moved to Ottawa and I never saw her again.
When I reached Townsville, Australia, in 1993, I had just left a private yacht. We had sailed from Sydney to Cairns. I took the bus to Townsville and went right to a nice B&B which had been recommended to me. The owner was a lovely older lady and she greeted me upon arrival. I asked for a single room but she wanted me to share a room with a nice Swiss girl who had just arrived alone.
But I said, "No thanks. I don’t want to share." I had just left close quarters with 2 people for a month so I wanted to be alone. However, the owner insisted I share a room with her. After a while, I gave up fighting and agreed to share. She told me Ruth could be found lying on a towel sunning herself in the backyard all alone.
After dropping my knapsack in the room, I sought out Ruth. From the moment we met, we became the best of friends. Her name was Ruth Mann and she’s from Switzerland. We spent the next two days together touring the area. I would really like to find her again and go visit her. Love to know how her life has gone.
I spent the first 5 years of my life in Brantford, Ontario, where my brother was born. My best friend was my next-door neighbour Barbara Bragg. She was a year older but we were always together. I have such good memories of her. After we moved to Hamilton, Barbara and I visited back and forth a few times but that didn’t last long as we got busy with our lives.
In Barbara’s basement hung this wonderful map of Canada with 4 of Neilson’s candy bars on the corners. It’s huge covering a wall. The map’s date is 1950 and it has all the old names for places in the country. I loved that map and begged the Braggs to let me have it. I don’t remember them giving it to me but I’ve always had it. It now hangs in my bedroom in a treasured spot.
If you know Deepti Gupta, Ruth Mann or Barbara Bragg, please let them know I’m looking for them. They are all probably married and have a new surname but I would give anything to be in contact with them again.
Andi Cumbo-Floyd www.andilit.com is my developmental editor and I requested that she write a guest blog about what she has done for me. Below is her reply.
I love Patty Lesser. I need to start with that, not because this is her blog but because it’s true. I love her as a person AND as a writer. She has one of the best storytelling minds I’ve ever seen. (You have read her books, right? Feel free to go get them now. I’ll wait.)
I have the honor of being Patty’s editor, and so I get to read her books first. (I know – it’s okay to be jealous.) So I’ve had the privilege of working with Patty as she grows as a writer, and in that time, we’ve worked hard to make her books even better . . .
To improve her work – and EVERY writer has room to improve, we’ve focused on three things, three ways that every fiction writer can improve their work. Here you go:
Choose a point of view and be true to it. If you decide that the best viewpoint from which to tell your story is in the mind of a 38-year-old monk who is narrating the story, then that monk needs to tell every bit of the story. You can’t suddenly have a 6-year-old girl that he sees on the street in Singapore share her thoughts because the monk can’t know what she’s thinking. You have to wed yourself to the monk and then use other tools – description, dialogue, internal monologue – to get across what we need to know about that young girl.
Remember that your characters have bodies. It’s really easy to get all heady in our writing, to have our characters do a lot of thinking and talking and forget that they have bodies that move. So be sure to incorporate movement, especially in the sections of dialogue. Have them move an arm or walk a certain way. Make them tilt a head or lean away from the person to whom they are speaking. Embody them, and they will live more fully for your readers.
Follow your story, not the idea you have for your story. This advice can sound like a lot of hokum if you haven’t yet experienced the fact that your characters have full lives of their own, lives that don’t necessarily succumb to your will. But they do – and if they don’t, maybe spend more time with them to hear their histories, find out their favorite brand of chocolate, and consider whether their cars are disasters or models of cleanliness that belong in showrooms. Once you know your characters, you have to let them live and do things that might go against your plan for the story. Those new paths are always going to be more rich than anything you’ve set out for them because that’s how life works – it’s not controllable or predictable.
So be like Patty – try out those things if you don’t already do them, and then let us know how they work for you in a comment below.