Category Archives: Family

A Middle East Memoir

Today’s contributor is Nancy T. Wall, a mother, entrepreneur and author of Pulled by the Heart, which tells the true story of her experiences during ten years living in the Middle East, and then escaping with her two children.  Before you say “Yeah, I saw that movie”, take note: Nancy’s story is not the one Sally Field portrayed on the big screen.  Nancy’s is a love affair – with her Syrian-born husband, with the Arabic language and Muslim culture, and with the Middle East itself.  Read on, as Nancy tells it in her own words.


My story is a wonderful adventure and a magnificent love story of a young woman from Neenah, Wisconsin who gets to live a very big life.  I took a leap of faith to travel to a third world country for someone I loved.  Some would say I was so adventurous!  But when we are young, it doesn’t always seem that way.  The world is open to us… and fear is masked by our eagerness to learn and our capacity for adventure.  That’s how it was for me.

Feeding Your Passions

Today’s story will whet your appetite for some tasty home-cooking!  It comes from Shelley Adams, author of the highly popular, award-nominated Whitewater Cooks cookbook series, and former co-owner of the Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, British Columbia.  You’ve already seen her recipe for Hungarian Mushroom Barley Soup featured in my Soup Column.  Now you can read how the cookbooks happened, and how she ended up carving out a unique and personalized life for herself, simply by doing things she loved.  Here is her story, as she was good enough to relate it to me.

Cooking as a Career Path

I was always interested in food because my mom was a really good cook and we ate really well.  She always laid a beautiful setting and used good, local food.

But I was actually unsure what I was going to do with myself.  I was working at a restaurant, a summer ski camp restaurant, and a woman who was working with me said, “The movie business is starting to build in Vancouver and they really need catering.  I’m wondering if you would come and be my assistant because I’m going to start a company.”  And I said, “Sure, I could do that – you know, until I decide what I want to do at university.”

Knowing Your Value

When we moved from Montreal to Canmore, we transitioned from a neighbourhood that was predominated by double-income, professional households, to a community where many mothers have left paid employment to dedicate their time and energy to running their family. Different lifestyles and life choices. And to be sure, these different choices produce different outcomes in things like the income level of the family and the pace of life in the home.

But do they produce a “better” family, or happier people within the family, one way or the other? When we were in Montreal, we knew families that were functioning pretty well, despite fairly hectic lifestyles involving full-time work hours by both parents. We also knew families that were divorcing, or had discipline problems with their kids, or were struggling with simmering issues of one kind or another. It was all over the map.

The Importance of Sisters

Almost five months post move and I can begin to discern the contours of what life will look like going forward.  There is the familiar stuff, like the busy-ness of work and school and all the kids’ activities – because, after all, we didn’t die, we just moved out of the big city.  These things, as always, provide the core of our day-to-day lives, and they have fallen into place quickly (and eaten up a lot of my blogging time!).

Other things are new – like being able to throw our canoe on the roof of the car and be lakeside in 15 minutes.  Or running into pretty much the same people with every new activity we get involved in, and realizing it’s because the town is just that small.  Or snow before Hallowe’en.  Or finding elk tracks in the snow right around the corner from our house, and then later meeting the elk who made the tracks, and a few of his buddies, standing in the road while I’m on my way to get groceries.

Elk tracks

This sort of thing definitely did not happen back in Montreal.

Rolling with it

As I write this, I am sitting in a car with my husband and two children, for the second day in a row, hurtling along a single lane highway that cuts through the never-ending wilderness of northern Ontario (picture trees, trees, lakes, rocks and more trees). Tomorrow, we will be doing the same thing. And to follow that up, we will spend three more days rolling across other sparsely populated regions of Canada.

Why are we doing this? Not because we are crazy (at least, not primarily). No, we have a better reason. We are doing this because, whether we were ready for it or not, Moving Day arrived. Bright and early yesterday, we said goodbye to Montreal, my home for the last 20 years and my husband’s for even longer, and headed west to a new chapter in our lives in Canmore, Alberta. And although we could have flown out, we decided to make it more memorable (this may be the crazy part) by turning the moment of transition into a family road trip.

Immigration and beyond

For my inaugural biography, I am pleased to offer you a story that comes from my family tree, and therefore has special meaning to me.  It is the story of my grandmother, Maja Pedersen, a Danish immigrant and mother of eight who, at 83 years of age, is still showing the rest of us a thing or two about how to live.  Here is her story, as she was good enough to relate it to me.

Maja’s Story

I was the born in 1928, the seventh of eight children in a small town in rural Denmark. My father was a kind, clever man, who ran a good farm and loved children. My mother was always busy, and took pride in keeping a lovely house and garden. She always had a hired girl to help look after us younger children and do other housework, which believe me was not a luxury but a necessity, for she had to serve three meals a day, plus three coffee breaks, for our family of ten and two live-in farm workers.

Starting points

First, a bit about this blog.

Like the title says, it’s about women, and about the lives they live. Not famous women, necessarily, or spectacular women, but ordinary women, like you and me, and like your mother, sister, daughter, neighbor, colleague, teacher, student, friend….

It’s also about the pieces that go together to make a life, and how each of us chooses to arrange them. Pieces like love, family, money and health. Work and marriage.  Children (or not). Your past. Your future. Your self-esteem. Sex. Faith. Education. Loss. Etc .

Imagine sitting down to make a list of all the elements of your life that are jostling for time and space and attention, both inside and outside of you. Imagine taking the time to think about how all these pieces fit together, and how they have come to be arranged in the way that they are. (Imagine you had the time to do that – it’s a stretch, I know, but bear with me…)

Now imagine that lots of women you know and even more that you don’t all made their own lists. Imagine getting the chance to look at their lists, and hear them talk about why their lists look the way they do. If you like the sound of that, stick around.  Because that is what I hope to do with this blog.