An ideal to live by

Age must be making me more philosophical – or perhaps it’s the writing I do with the focus it brings on characters’ emotions, motivations, joys, and disappointments. A number of years ago, I clipped a portion of an article from the Globe and Mail written by Gordon Pitts. Mr. Pitts had interviewed Marilyn Carson Nelson who was then Chair of Carlson Cos. Inc. a hospitality-travel business that included Radisson hotels and Carlson Wagonlit Travel. (One of her daughters has subsequently taken on that position.)

The question that captured my attention was Ms. Nelson’s quote:

Every day should be a day I can sign my name to. We should live as a kind of artist because that may be the last day.

Mr. Pitts asked Ms. Nelson to explain and included her response in the interview.

“Our third child was a daughter, Juliet. She was beautiful, vivacious with that wonderful free spirit that comes from being a middle child. She was the one who would call in the morning and say, ‘Have you seen the sun rise?’

She had gone off to college and she was in an automobile accident. She was in the back seat, didn’t have a seatbelt on, and was thrown out of the car.

It’s impossible to put words around the loss of a child. My husband and I tried to make sense of it – and of course, you can’t. But you decide every day, ‘Are you going to get up, or are you going to put the pillow over your head? Of course there are many reasons to get up, but it is so hard to try, in any way, to force yourself to go on. Then we began to realize it was, in part, about time.

We spend our lives thinking about when – when our children grow up, when they graduate, when they’re married. And it is wonderful – we are preparing.

But this wonderful gift is today. She didn’t know she would not come back from college. I don’t know whether I’ll get home tonight. But I know I have this moment – and the time we have is the time being.

So my husband and I decided on a philosophy that if today were the last day of my life, would I be able to sign my name to it? Would I say I lived up to my own expectations of myself? Did I live with integrity? Did I apply my talents? Did I love my neighbour? Did I forgive?

Those are the things that each of us really wants to do, but we don’t always take stock at the end of the day and start again tomorrow. We should make a bit of a work of art of the time we are given.”

I’m glad I found this piece again and can share it with you. Hopefully, I can bring this philosophy into my day-to-day living.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

What’s more important: Beginning or end?

Cover graphic for Into the water by paula hawkinsIn a recent Globe and Mail article, Paula Hawkins (of The Girl on the Train fame) is interviewed on the occasion of her new novel Into the Water. I was intrigued by what Hawkins had to say about the beginning and ending of a novel.

What’s more important: The beginning of a book or the end?

The beginning, I would say, because without it you do not know what sort of ending is possible, without the beginning, no sort of ending is possible. I understand that from a reader’s perspective, a satisfying conclusion is critical to one’s enjoyment of a book, but from an author’s point of view, the beginning of a novel is at once hopeful and dangerous. The beginning of a book holds within it a world of possibility, a whole network of potential paths and tracks to follow. Choose the wrong one, and you may find yourself writing entirely the wrong book.

Hmm. Since I am right now considering this question, Paula Hawkins’s words have got me thinking.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

Thoughts on Canada, democracy and tragedy

Source: CBC News
Source: CBC News

We interrupt our usual programming to bring some reflections on what happened on Canadian soil and at the heart of our parliamentary democracy this week.

On Monday, a man attempted to run down two soldiers with his vehicle. One soldier died, the murderer, a self-radicalized Muslim convert, was slain.

On Wednesday, a man shot and murdered a reservist, serving his country by standing guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. That man then got in his car drove to the Parliament Buildings and entered with the same weapon he used minutes earlier. He was gunned down as bullets ricocheted in the Hall of Honour separating the east and west blocks of the building.

Two soldiers slain. Two gunmen killed. Both gunmen known to police; both had their passports taken away as a result of their jihadist affiliations.

This is Canada, folks. A huge country with a small population. A country that has shared the enormous burden of two world wars and the Korean War. A country with a reputation as peacemakers. A country that sends troops on NATO missions, and heeds the call when coalitions are formed such as those in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan and now in Iraq. We try to punch above our weight. A people who are as multi-cultured as you can imagine. We take pride in our calm, modest behaviour. We take pride in standing up for human rights, for the downtrodden, for those less fortunate.

Our democracy works – occasionally a bit strained at the edges. We have our share of internal squabbles but for the most part, our country of 10 provinces and 3 territories gets along. A historian once described our country as the ‘peaceable kingdom’.

The happenings of Monday and Wednesday will not weaken us. We will be strong and carry on.

Headlines in The Globe and Mail – one of our national newspapers – are striking:


We Canadians are steadfast and a bit phlegmatic. These are among our finest traits. We don’t get that excited, and we won’t be cowed into giving up our freedoms. Also, we can shoot to kill. So long as we retain these virtues, the terrorists don’t have a chance.


It was said Wednesday, in haste, that the drama and tragedy in Ottawa represented the ‘end of innocence’ for Canada. If so, it was the end only for the remaining innocents among us, because the struggle against militant Islam, which is an outgrowth of a much wider and deeper struggle within Islam itself, has been and will be with us for a very long time.


In light of this week, Canada may have to change. But whatever changes we choose to make should be done carefully and calmly, with an understanding of the limited scale of the threat, and the nature of tradeoffs between freedom and safety.

This morning our Members of Parliament, including the Prime Minister and leaders of our other two major parties, and our Senators went to the war memorial where the reservist was slain to lay wreaths and pay their respects. Afterwards, they sang our national anthem.

Canada, eh?