The Gift

Sharing Your Life Lessons with the People You Love Most

The Gift: Something I've Been Meaning to Say...The concepts put forward in this book have been with me for so long I can’t remember how, where or when they first began impressing themselves upon me. Even before I began writing personal and family histories, I felt passionate about writing letters—and teaching others to write letters—as an easy and enduring method of sharing significant thoughts, memories and (sometimes awkward) feelings with loved ones. One of the greatest benefits to doing the exercises in The Gift is the opportunity to conduct a life review—an enlightening and encouraging experience of personal rediscovery. Writing down what we learn or relearn about life and ourselves is a treasure for all time, revealing ourselves in ways that only we can express.

The Gift is your time machine, propelling you into the future aboard a vehicle of your own creation: airy musings, lines of poetry or song, or your deepest thoughts, feelings, dreams, longings and regrets—in your own words. There are many more progressive types of media than old-fashioned paper and ink (penned by hand or keyed) but let’s say I’m an old-fashioned sort; and for all of you who share my preferences, here is an uncomplicated paper-and-ink method of recording all the things you want to share, but maybe could not, or did not (yet), with those you love, and with some who will feel a connection with you at a future time.

The overriding instruction in this book is keep it simple! One of my reasons for recommending the paper-and-ink method is its simplicity; it requires no expensive software and no special skills. Think of it as a long letter you have always wanted to write—whether by hand or keyboard, the net effect is the same.

 That’s all The Gift expects to be: a unique communication from you to all those with whom you have shared your life, a home, your genes, your favourite garden tools, or even the planet, if you so choose.

 There is no right way to leave a record of all you want to say. This is intended as a guide for just one way to do it. Some of the exercises in this book may not appeal to you; treat it like a buffet. You don’t have to taste everything, but if you haven’t tried it you may be missing something really special. No matter what you take from this book, use or discard, if it helps in any way to lead you to leaving a personal legacy, then it has done its job. And for that I am humbly grateful.

Click here for a PDF sample of the book with table of contents. Click here to see an online version with turnable pages.

Softcover: 80 pages including blank pages for notes, 6 x 9, ISBN 978-09784932-2-6

Softcover Workbook: 96 pages including blank lined and unlined pages for notes and illustrations, 8 x 10,  ISBN 978-09784932-3-3

Publication date: October 2010

$29.99 for two-book set

Annie Woods, 1911 - 2006

In the early 1900s, James and Letitia Stewart were hardworking farmers in the hamlet of Ballymacpeake, near Ballamina in the District of Bellaghy in Northern Ireland. On September 5, 1911, the Stewarts welcomed another daughter into their family—she was christened Annie and became a middle child of a family of ten siblings.

Annie’s grandfather had been the record-keeper for the area, responsible for registering all births, deaths and marriages. The ledgers he maintained were kept in big pockets on either side of a great chair in his sitting room at home. Whenever there was a death, birth or marriage, the local townsfolk would arrive at Annie’s grandfather’s home, where he would sit in his great chair and duly record the news in the ledgers.


Erika Wieder

Memoir sample

Erika Wieder was born in East Germany on October 22, 1927. When World War II started, Erika (nee Thoese) was 12 years old. Her father, Karl Albert Thoese, served in the German army; he was killed in battle with the Russian forces. Erika’s mother, Lina, was left alone with her four daughters: Irmgard, (the eldest), Erika, Gerda and Adelheid. Lina and her daughters relocated to Erika’s father’s hometown to live on the family farm.

When Poland was invaded, a number of the evacuees took shelter with Erika’s family before moving on. Erika was 17 when the war finally ended. Thousands of East Germans fled to West Germany travelling by horse and buggy, moving from place to place. They relied on other families to provide food and shelter; many people generously opened their homes and provided what little assistance they could. Erika recalls that when the children heard shooting near the border, the adults told them not to be frightened—it was only practice shooting. But the children knew better. The refugees travelled for four months, from January through April; the Those family felt lucky to be able stay together through this difficult time.

When The Berlin Wall was erected, they knew they could not return home and the family resettled near Hamburg, West Germany. Through the difficult years of the war, and in spite of the tragic events that Erika experienced, she recalls those times with a sense of adventure.


Reflections on Our Past

The Rocks — 189 Minnesota Street
Stability and Grace: c. 1874-1876

Published Fall 2006, Our Homes Magazine

189 Minnesota Street"I don't believe there was a man in Collingwood, if his debts were paid, would have a dollar he could call his own."

So wrote the first mayor of Collingwood, William Basil Hamilton in a journal entry describing Collingwood’s first financial “crash”—150 years ago. It had come without warning, an abrupt collapse in the real estate market, ending a frenzy of land sales that had peaked and tumbled in 1857.

W. B. Hamilton was born in Charlestown, England in 1812, one of eight children of Captain James Mathew Hamilton—an Irish-born son of a rector—and an English mother. William left England to make his fortune in the frontier land of the colonies, arriving in Canada in 1829. It was 25 years before Hamilton finally struck on a golden opportunity.

In 1853, the lumber business was booming. Mills had sprung up all along the shores of Lake Huron and timber was the new gold. Hamilton jumped in with his life savings, securing logging rights to 50 square miles of pine forest bordering the Muskoka River. In the midst of it, near Penetanguishene, he built a mill for production and full-scale operations were soon underway. When he later applied to purchase the land on which the mill stood, he was refused; an official at the Crown Land Department deemed it imprudent to sell riverfront acreage which might later be deemed a prime site for future settlement.

Hamilton was confounded by the decision. “This, where there was nothing but rock,” he recorded years later, “was not a very likely thing to happen...I only asked for a few acres and there would have been plenty of room [remaining] for a city.”


Other titles:

Test of Faith:

Hope, Courage and the Prison Experience

Test of FaithTest of Faith is a moving voice for countless wives, parents, siblings and children who live under the shadow of crime. These are the forgotten victims. They choose not to turn their backs on a convicted criminal, because the offender is someone they love.

Raised in a middle-class family, Eva Evelyn Hanks never expected to be given an insider's view of the horror, degradation and humiliation that are inherent in the experience of the Canadian penal system.

"I had to write this book. I simply could not believe what I was seeing, what I was hearing. It was so opposite to everything I had ever been told about Canadian prisons, about what an easy ride it is. It's nothing like what you read in the paper. Our prison system is based on revenge, not on healing, not on correction at all. Prisoners and their families are the last marginalized Canadians who are still fair game in the arena of political incorrectness. You can make all the jokes you want to - you simply don't know until you've been there."

Eva Evelyn Hanks attended a private school where the principles of charity and justice were taught and encouraged. She had little knowledge or interest in prison reform issues. Her life changed dramatically, however, with the sudden arrest and subsequent incarceration of her spouse. Witnessing the harsh realities of prison life and the hardships of inmates' families, Eva felt compelled to share her experiences and set the record straight on the lives led by Canadian prisoners and their families.

"Test of Faith is...a story of the eternal weakness of human beings [under] the abuse of power. From the naked power of cars and guns and the correctional officer who gloats...the role of power and the damage it can do, runs like an ugly thread through this moving story of romance and mutual devotion."

Ruth Morris, author of Stories of Transformative Justice and Penal Abolition: The Practical Choice.

Some can tell great stories, but the gifted can move you through their very lives and souls and take you through joy, grief, frustration and love, as this writer so graciously does. This book brought back vivid memories of prison and how very difficult it is to keep a relationship alive when the system does nothing to help families cope..."Test of Faith provides an inside look at our justice and correction systems and how families of the convicted become victims too."

Rosie Rowbotham: Crime and Punishment Contributing Editor, CBC Radio "This Morning".

Test of Faith, Canadian Scholars' Press Inc., 2000, 224 pages, ISBN 1-55139-176-8

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