Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where Children Run in the news

Where Children Run's 15th Anniversary Collector's Edition Re-print

About Where Children Run:

The true story of David and Dennis Pischke and how they survived more than a decade of starvation and abuse at the hands of their violently unstable step-father.
A disturbing, heart wrenching account of survival that becomes a surprising testament to the strength and adaptability of the human spirit.
First released in 1996, Where Children Run became an instant bestseller. Now back in print, this 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition features an updated epilogue, readers’ letters plus current photos.
A timeless, important book that once picked up, can’t be put down until the final page is turned.  A story not easily forgotten.

To read Chapter One, click on the WCR tab in the menu bar.

About When Memories Remain:

The continuing saga of the Pischke twins who survived more than a decade of abuse at the hands of their violently unstable step-father.
When Memories Remain chronicles how the brothers coped after leaving their isolated farm, thrust into society, completely unprepared for the normal lives they craved.
A heartfelt and often humourous story about two disadvantaged boys who, as they grew into men, struggled against bitter memories in their search for redemption.
Sequel to the bestselling book, Where Children Run, first released in 1996. Within these pages lies the answer to the burning question of what happened to the twins after they left the farm and why they decided to speak out about the abuse in the first place. 

To read Chapter One, click on the WMR tab in the menu bar.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Life as we know it

Dad loved bottle feeding calves
The First of May

It is early Sunday morning and a fierce spring storm has swept in and covered everything in a wet, white blanket. We are subjected to one every year, but this time it has come later than usual. The weather network has just proclaimed this “the worst first of May ever.”

I am up as always, with a hot cup of coffee to the left of my keyboard, and a mind filled with ideas. A writer has nothing without the snippets of memory that stretch into stories. I can write whatever I want today. Afterall, it is Sunday. Where shall I start? Polish the book I’m working on, blog, revise a few favourite short stories with a contest deadline in mind? Do non-writers even understand this excitement? Too many question marks I know. I will edit them out before this blog is posted.
It is nearly 10:00 a.m. my time. In a few minutes, Dad will call. 11:00 a.m. his time.

He’ll be wondering about the snow and the flooding predictions that have taken over the news these past few months. He’ll ask about the Portage Diversion and how the water flowing from the south into Lake Manitoba will affect the lake and the ranch land that surrounds it as it makes its way to Lake Winnipeg. He’ll want to know if the ice is off yet, but he won’t ask about any of this until he has asked about the calves. Calving season isn’t quite over yet and this is the deadliest kind of weather, arriving at the worst possible time, discouraging the rancher who is already exhausted from months of night checks and everything it takes to bring calves into the world and keep them alive until pasture. We’ll talk about all this and Dad will listen, even though he has heard a variation of this same story many times, but like a child listening as you read his favourite bedtime story over and over again, Dad will absorb himself in what I am saying and in his mind’s eye, will see it all so clearly as if he were looking out my window.

Then we’ll talk about how things are with him. He’ll tell me that he was out at Nancy and John’s house yesterday to check on the boat and that he’ll launch it next weekend. It will cost $1,200 in slip fees this year, and he’ll feel a bit bad about that since the money could be put to use somewhere else, but oh well, he’ll say, what the hell – you only live once. And then he’ll chuckle and change the subject. The weather was good so he took the Christmas lights down, winding them around a clever wooden holder he made specifically to keep the lights from balling all up like they did when I was a kid. And the Jeep needs to go in for its annual spring check-up and even though the odometer reads 325,617 kilometers (he checked it the other day), there isn’t a spot of rust on it. Pretty good, eh?
Next we’ll discuss tomorrow’s election and he’ll swear a bit. A union man stuck in a traditionally Conservative riding. What was the point in even voting? But then he’ll say he understands because a Conservative government is good for the farmers and that is where his roots spring from and his heart resides. Then he’ll clear his throat and have to go get a glass of water. I’ll wait, and smile, because this happens every time.

Except this year, I am not there. I watch the storm from a large apartment window in Winnipeg, but like Dad, can still see the farmyard in my mind, and while completely unaffected by the wind and wet, my heart aches for the ranchers the same way Dad’s did.

And he is no longer here either. I can honestly say that I always looked forward to his Sunday morning phone calls. Never once did I not pick up. Almost as if I knew that someday the calls would stop coming.

Grief is a grievous thing.

Dreams plague me all night and I wake up with a throbbing head every morning. Advil barely helps. And no, it isn’t the glass of wine (or two) I sip some nights in an effort to relax and forget. I’ve been sipping wine, sometimes even drinking it, without these after affects before, so no, it isn’t the wine. It’s the stories. All piling up in my mind, fighting against my daily “To Do” list for space in what has become a hoarder’s closet. It needs to be cleaned out.

It has always been like this for me. When I was a girl, if something was bothering me the only way I could extract the thoughts were to put them down on paper. Now, while trying to write professionally, the internal fight between what I have to write by deadline and what I need to write to clear my mind, has created a huge block. I can’t get to one because the other is in the way.

So now it is time to clean out the closet, to begin writing about Dad.

For me it is definitely the worst first of May ever.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Life as we know it

I also remember the feel of sponge curlers in my hair


Time to start blogging again

  1. Wake up thinking about Micheal Jackson.
  2. Realize I can’t remember the name of the girl who lived across the street when I was growing up.
  3. Am excited to get up for the first time in a long while.
  4. Feel glad I am blogging again.

In the days following Micheal Jackson’s death, I spent hours on the computer watching YouTube.

I can’t remember a time in my life not being aware of Micheal Jackson. As the oldest of four children in our family, I had to rely on sources outside of the family, namely Teresa Mastrionni who lived across the street and was two years older, to enlighten me on things going on in the outside world. Back then, television was limited to cartoons like the Jetsons;  the Wonderful World of Disney and programs like the Munsters, the Monkees, Family Affair and Beverly Hillbillies. The Ed Sullivan show was considered an adult program which came on after I was already in bed, 7:30 p.m. in the winter and 8:00 in the summer.

I can only remember snippets of my life prior to 1972, the year we moved from the little brick house on East 42nd Street on the Hamilton escarpment to the little brown house on First Road East, also on the escarpment but in Stoney Creek. What I do remember about life “in the city” was the day a neighbour boy fell out of a tree and smashed his front teeth; tasting coffee ice cream for the first time, (made by a neighbour who had her very own ice cream maker, a luxury for sure) and whether or not it was the flavour or the caffeine I don’t know, but I became instantly hooked; the night our black lab named Queenie was hit by a car and died on the vet’s table.

I remember the afternoon I got into a fistfight with a neighbour girl (not Teresa) in the middle of the snow covered street, worrying all the while that a snow plough would come at that very moment and heave us into a death pile on the sidewalk. Mom believed that fighting was okay, especially if it was to ward off being bullied and I think I might have won that one because as I worried about the snow plough taking my life, I was looking up and down the street, not up at the sky, so I think I was the one on top. The street was a dangerous place to be. Just ask poor old Queenie.

My friend Teresa was of Italian heritage so her life was different from mine. Her parents barely spoke English, they had lovely furnishings on the main level of the house, but spent most of their time in the basement making daily use of their older but still useful furniture and appliances. Not a thing was out of place in their squeaky clean home that smelled like tomato sauce and wine.

Their dog was kept in a small, fenced in portion of the backyard and when Teresa's Dad would take the dog hunting for rabbits, he’d put the dog in the trunk of the car, shocking me beyond belief. Queenie slept on my bed, owned the backyard and rode in the passenger seat of our Volkswagen. Although I was only eight years-old, I sensed Teresa’s parents didn’t think much of me, since they corrected my manners and watched me with off-kilter eyebrows. Back then, kids from families like mine, only took baths on Sunday night. Girls like me who were overly sensitive and insecure, always felt somewhat inadequate when compared to someone like Teresa who was beautifully exotic and never had dog shit on her shoes. Enduring the consternation was worth it though, because Teresa had a record player. She is the one who introduced me to modern music and the Jackson Five.

Since it is still a vivid memory, I expect I will never forget the first time I saw Micheal Jackson. Not in person of course, but poster-sized on the closet door in Teresa’s bedroom. I scanned those smiling, five black faces assessing quickly which one was closest to my age. I wasn’t exactly sure what to think of him. Afterall, he was five years older and black. This is my first conscious memory of realizing that not everybody in the world was white-skinned like me. But wow, could he ever sing.
It is horribly cliché to say that we are a product of our times but it is also horribly true. As a child of the 60s who grew up in the 70s, I know from experience that life back then was pretty black and white. Eat or be eaten.

Squeaky clean Michael Jackson fell out of favour quickly. Then Disco became a casualty. Anyone who dared say during the late 70s that Micheal was a fabulous singer was laughed at. So were those who didn’t have long hair, feathered and parted down the middle. Straight-leg, Levi jeans were in, everything else out. Having your own personal style set you apart in a not-so-good way. Rockers were the exception because being outrageous and self-destructive was okay. So long as you were tough. Sensitive people didn’t do well during that era.

Somewhere in that time between me getting married and starting to teach aerobics classes, Micheal Jackson made a remarkable career comeback with his albums, Dangerous and Bad, interesting titles when you think about it. But I never really watched him dance until after his death. I mean, really watched. And once I started, it was hard to stop. The proliferation of videos on the internet tell the story of Micheal’s life. What is astonishing is that as the cameras captured his every move, chronicling how Michael changed his music, image and looks to satisfy society’s insatiable desire for something more, something better it also captured forever chronologically, for anyone who chooses to acknowledge it, a bold statement about society and its expectations.

Some things aren’t learned, they are absorbed. Watching the dissection of Michael’s life post mortem, made me reflect upon my own life. The styles, the insecurity, expectations and scrutiny. Do any of us escape life without a few battle wounds that eventually turn into scars?

Micheal Jackson was fine just the way he was. A good-looking, sensitive boy who had he been born a decade or two later, would have taken pride in his heritage and embraced what had set him apart from everyone else. Instead, plastic surgery, outrageous behaviour and addictions took him away from us.
This world of ours can be a dangerous, unforgiving place.

Just ask Micheal.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Life as we know it

Okay Nance, tell us what you really think
Blogging from prison

I received an email from my sister recently, nagging because I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been so busy with work that most of the humour has left my life, and the last thing you all want to read is a boring list of all the things I have to do.

The obvious solution is to go to prison.

I mean think about it – someone like me – whose description of the perfect day is sitting for twelve hours in front of the computer, writing. It’s a no-brainer.

There would be no housework to do except I think they give you a chore like laundry (which I have to do here anyway) and it would take a total of three seconds to clean my room.

Apparently, there is also time to exercise each day. A forced exercise break. Imagine that? I’d love it! I’ve heard they have nice gym equipment there too, treadmills and ellipticals – better stuff than I can afford to buy here at home.

And then somebody would make my meals. Hear that? Someone else does the cooking! And probably the dishes, too. And then with no men around that means no sports on T.V. This sounds really good.

I think I’d adjust fine. I’m not a fussy eater, I don’t smoke, don’t do drugs and could easily quit my wine habit. I cut my hair short already and barely comb it and I wear sweatsuits most days. As long as I could take my computer along I’d be just fine. A three year sentence would be about right. I could finish all the novels I’ve started and write a flippin’ fantastic blog.

Just think of it: “Life is Pretty Damn Interesting Inside these Prison Walls.”

I could interview inmates, talk about their crimes, report on the day-to-day fights and shit that goes on. People love to talk about themselves and I’m a great listener so that would be my strategy for making friends.

Just so long as I don’t have to participate in any  squirmishes I’d be okay. I’d have to establish right off the bat that I’m just there as an observer – kinda like the reporter who goes to war with the troops but doesn’t have to do any actual fighting.

I could offer to do all kinds of things in jail: I could teach a fitness class or do some personal training; help them set up a prison newspaper; teach a computer class; offer a creative writing workshop; evaluate a few manuscripts (I’m not qualified to do any of this in regular society) but I figure, besides Conrad Black, how many people with my experience are locked up? Most writers end up in the looney bin or rehab. There is a real need for someone with my skills in prison.

And at the very least, I could bring along a few of my favourite recipes and whip up a pan of “the cake with the yellow icing” during my turn in the kitchen (that is if I can get some coconut smuggled in). And my homemade fudge is TO DIE FOR. I could trade it for pretty much anything – like office supplies.

Now the question is: How do I get there.

I’m pretty squeamish so there can’t be any blood involved. It would definitely have to be white collar crime. And should involve huge amounts of money. Of course the bonus would be if I could skim off and hide enough to pay off debts in the process, it would make three years in the Big House worthwhile. I mean otherwise, we’re looking at another 10 years of hard labour . . .

My strategy for getting along would include befriending the toughest inmate and the guards. It would be pretty easy to get on the good side of the guards because I’m quite helpful and don’t mind being bossed around, so long as my efforts are appreciated. I’d also have to somehow let them all know that I have no interest in being anybody’s Bitch. I mean, that would be pretty gross, so I’d have to take along my runners just in case. And of course that’s why becoming best friends with one of the guards (preferably a heterosexual female) would be my top priority.

Yes, if I went to jail my writing career would just take right off.

Excuse me now while I log off and do a search for “White Collar Crime for Dummies.” Or maybe I’ll just email Conrad Black  . . .