A Novel by Karen Higgins

One of the characters in my novel, A Child of God, is Bayly, a six-year-old adorable but nutty Yellow Lab. His character was based on the most wonderful but extremely crazy Labrador, Chance that our whole family (and many others) adored.

 Many of you have probably read Marley and Me by John Grogan. Chance comes in as a close second to Marley. I think he would have eaten up our whole house if he wasn’t crate trained as a young pup. Okay, you’re asking, what did he do?

 At the Oshawa Obedience Club where we trained, Chance was known as the yellow bandit! The trainers and regulars all knew to hide their doggie treats when my “little robber” was in class. One evening as Chance and I beautifully pranced around in a circle of dogs and handlers, I diligently scanned the area for food (as I always did) but Chance’s nose was faster than my eyes.  In one second flat, he downed a large Ziploc bag of wienies (bag included) that some unsuspecting “newbie” had left on a chair. This type of thing was a regular occurrence.

 I swear that dog was actually a goat! One night as we walked through our neighbourhood park in Whitby, I heard a loud crunching sound coming from his very active mouth. I was in a bit of a panic when I discovered that my very “intelligent” Lab had eaten glass!  Of course it was the weekend, so I phoned the emergency clinic. They said that he would probably throw it up (which he did) but to watch him all night. I sat up the whole night nervously watching my crazy nut peacefully sleeping without a worry in the world. He was fine; end of story.

 One of the worst memories of my “buddy” was when I enrolled him in an advanced class at a different training school.  Chance was so excited at  seeing all the new dogs that he totally disrupted the other well behaved canines by jumping on top of them and barking as loudly as he could. I thought of sneaking out the back door but unfortunately that didn’t happen . “What do you mean this, this…has a CD?” the instructor asked looking at me like I was from another planet. As I told her, “Yes; indeed, he has a Companion Dog Title in Obedience and he’s never failed a trial,” (all true!) I could see the other owners smirking while gently patting their lovely, very obedient dogs. Things then went from bad to worse.  In a nutshell, Chance ripped open the back side of a lady’s gorgeous (probably designer) pair of jeans that just happened to have treats in their pocket. Next, he somehow got hold of and tore open a huge bag of kibble. After profusely apologizing to the lady in ripped jeans and offering to pay for them, I then began to make amends to the red-faced, glaring instructor. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean the kibble all up,” I said as I began madly sweeping. But all of a sudden, the kibbles were floating around in what seemed like a small lake. You guessed it; my “fun” guy spilled the huge communal water bowl! “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” I humbly mumbled. “Just leave!” were the last words I heard from the screeching voice coming out of the “not so happy” (I know, an understatement) instructor. I slunk out, not looking back. My happy-go-lucky Lab was wagging his tail like there was no tomorrow!

 That being said, I am very proud to say that Chance became a certified Therapy Dog who brought great happiness to many veterans at Sunnybrook Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. My dad, who suffered with Alzheimer’s for over ten years, was a resident in their Veteran’s wing. I can’t tell you the joy Chance brought not only to my dad, but to several other residents. I remember seeing my boy gently put his head down on the lap of an elderly Alzheimer’s patient who was in a wheelchair. This was something I saw him do many times. He seemed to instinctively know to be gentle with those residents. What was unusual this particular time was that the Alzheimer’s patient, who they thought could not talk or respond, suddenly smiled and said, “Hi puppy.” Need I say more?

 Chance passed away shortly after his 12th birthday in May 2008. We still laugh at his wild antics and his crazy ways, but more importantly we remember the great joy that this magnificent Labrador Retriever gave not only to us, but to numerous other people. (Gorsebrook’s Best Chance, 1996 – 2008)

 We are now proud owners of a beautiful, little King Charles Cavalier, “Prince” Harry, who recently came in second in his puppy class. He might have been first if it wasn’t for the numerous errors his handler (me) made!

 Hope you have enjoyed my blog. If you have any “doggie” stories that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

 Cheers, Karen

Book Signing at Chapters/BarrieI had a wonderful time today at my book signing at Chapters! When I arrived everything was set up very nicely and all I had to do was greet customers and take out my pen! I met a lot of very interesting people and I really enjoyed telling them about my novel. I ran into former neighbours, Gerda and George  from Horseshoe Valley and had a great “catch-up” conversation  with them. I also met another author, Les Stroud, who happened to pop by and we each bought one another’s book. I talked to a new author, Doug Gardham, who is in the process of publishing his first book, The Actor,  with iUniverse. It was a great experience and a fabulous day! Thank you Chapters, Barrie!

The fictitious cult, God’s Children, portrayed in A Child of God resembles the very real cult, Children of God (COG). The COG started in 1968 in Huntington Beach,California. It is not surprising that its roots began there since many of the first hippie communes were located in California in areas such as Haight-Ashbury. Consequently, many of the early converts of the COG were drawn from the hippie movement. The COG was one of the sects that prompted the cult controversy during the seventies and eighties in the U.S. and Europe. It is interesting to note that the first organized anti-cult group was called FREECOG. (Wikipedia)

 The Children of God has had several name changes since they began in 1968. They were known as The Family of Love from 1978 until 1981 and The Family from 1982 until 2003. From 2004 to the present they are known as The Family International. (Wikipedia)

While researching various cults, I was saddened to read many accounts of emotional and sexual abuse of both adults and children. I borrowed the term flirty fishing, an expression used by the COG for sexual proselytizing.

God’s Children’s fictitious leader, Abe, was largely based on David “Moses” Berg who was born in 1919 and became the founder of COG. He and his mistress, Maria, had absolute authoritative control internationally. Berg believed that under the pretext of freedom in Christ, the members should engage in all manner of sexual “liberties” including prostitution, fornication, adultery, incest, adult-child sex and child sex ( More Precious Pearls, The All Things Tree, Mo Letters (ML) #302A; Old Bottles, ML#242.) Berg’s doctrine of “Sharing” was to prevent disciples (members) from withholding sex from a “family” member if they are asked in love to meet their sexual needs. (The Watchman Expositor)

The Children of God are known today as The Family International (TFI). They claim that they are a Christian community active in over ninety countries and that they are committed to sharing the message of God’s love with others. For more information on the TFI see their website – www.thefamilyinternational.org

One of the characters in my novel, A Child of God, is Bayly, a six-year-old adorable but nutty Yellow Lab. His character was based on the most wonderful but extremely crazy Labrador, Chance that our whole family (and many others) adored.

 Many of you have probably read Marley and Me by John Grogan. Chance comes in as a close second to Marley. I think he would have eaten up our whole house if he wasn’t crate trained as a young pup. Okay, you’re asking, what did he do?

 At the Oshawa Obedience Club where we trained, Chance was known as the yellow bandit! The trainers and regulars all knew to hide their doggie treats when my “little robber” was in class. One evening as Chance and I beautifully pranced around in a circle of dogs and handlers, I diligently scanned the area for food (as I always did) but Chance’s nose was faster than my eyes.  In one second flat, he downed a large Ziploc bag of wienies (bag included) that some unsuspecting “newbie” had left on a chair. This type of thing was a regular occurrence.

 I swear that dog was actually a goat! One night as we walked through our neighbourhood park in Whitby, I heard a loud crunching sound coming from his very active mouth. I was in a bit of a panic when I discovered that my very “intelligent” Lab had eaten glass!  Of course it was the weekend, so I phoned the emergency clinic. They said that he would probably throw it up (which he did) but to watch him all night. I sat up the whole night nervously watching my crazy nut peacefully sleeping without a worry in the world. He was fine; end of story.

 One of the worst memories of my “buddy” was when I enrolled him in an advanced class at a different training school.  Chance was so excited at  seeing all the new dogs that he totally disrupted the other well behaved canines by jumping on top of them and barking as loudly as he could. I thought of sneaking out the back door but unfortunately that didn’t happen . “What do you mean this, this…has a CD?” the instructor asked looking at me like I was from another planet. As I told her, “Yes; indeed, he has a Companion Dog Title in Obedience and he’s never failed a trial,” (all true!) I could see the other owners smirking while gently patting their lovely, very obedient dogs. Things then went from bad to worse.  In a nutshell, Chance ripped open the back side of a lady’s gorgeous (probably designer) pair of jeans that just happened to have treats in their pocket. Next, he somehow got hold of and tore open a huge bag of kibble. After profusely apologizing to the lady in ripped jeans and offering to pay for them, I then began to make amends to the red-faced, glaring instructor. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean the kibble all up,” I said as I began madly sweeping. But all of a sudden, the kibbles were floating around in what seemed like a small lake. You guessed it; my “fun” guy spilled the huge communal water bowl! “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” I humbly mumbled. “Just leave!” were the last words I heard from the screeching voice coming out of the “not so happy” (I know, an understatement) instructor. I slunk out, not looking back. My happy-go-lucky Lab was wagging his tail like there was no tomorrow!

 That being said, I am very proud to say that Chance became a certified Therapy Dog who brought great happiness to many veterans at Sunnybrook Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. My dad, who suffered with Alzheimer’s for over ten years, was a resident in their Veteran’s wing. I can’t tell you the joy Chance brought not only to my dad, but to several other residents. I remember seeing my boy gently put his head down on the lap of an elderly Alzheimer’s patient who was in a wheelchair. This was something I saw him do many times. He seemed to instinctively know to be gentle with those residents. What was unusual this particular time was that the Alzheimer’s patient, who they thought could not talk or respond, suddenly smiled and said, “Hi puppy.” Need I say more?

 Chance passed away shortly after his 12th birthday in May 2008. We still laugh at his wild antics and his crazy ways, but more importantly we remember the great joy that this magnificent Labrador Retriever gave not only to us, but to numerous other people. (Gorsebrook’s Best Chance, 1996 – 2008)

 We are now proud owners of a beautiful, little King Charles Cavalier, “Prince” Harry, who recently came in second in his puppy class. He might have been first if it wasn’t for the numerous errors his handler (me) made!

 Hope you have enjoyed my blog. If you have any “doggie” stories that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

 Cheers, Karen

Many readers have told me that they could not believe what a monster Brad was throughout Joan’s ordeal with cancer! Brad and Joan are husband and wife characters from my novel, A Child of God. Before writing their scenes, I did research on the topic of Cancer and the Importance of Support and I was disheartened to see that there are many cancer patients out there who are really suffering from lack of spousal support. Conversely, in my own community I have witnessed husbands and wives who were totally amazing in their loving, compassionate efforts in caring for their spouses with cancer. I can only give praise to the numerous men and women I have known who were such devoted caregivers. I am sure that this is often the case in all economic or demographic areas, but sadly there are some people in every group who do suffer from lack of support.

I have read several accounts about husbands who were completely unsympathetic to their wife’s condition, but there are also many reports of wives being unsupportive to husbands who were undergoing cancer treatment. Some wives expressed the fact that a cancer diagnosis turns their spouse’s world upside down as well, and the stress from that may make them appear unsupportive. Below are examples of what some cancer patients have said about this issue.

Angela feels that guys who often aren’t emotional become extremely scared and are suddenly bombarded with emotions; because of that they often shut down to get through it. She suggests to others in that situation that you talk to your husband; let him know your needs, but respect that he needs to turn off sometimes. She does stress however to make sure that you do tell him when his shutting down makes it harder than ever for you.

Bethany says that what women perceive in men as cold indifference is often a man covering up his fear. Some men are afraid if there is even the slightest crack in their veneer that their terror will come pouring out. She also believes that most men are not emotional and sensitive in the same way that women are. Even in this modern day many men still feel that they should be the strong partner and do not want to be seen as being soft or weepy so they hide their true feelings. She feels that men like that are so invested in putting forth a strong façade that they have their breakdowns in private.

Kirk, whose wife was going through cancer treatment, explains that guys like to be problem solvers. He found it very frustrating that he couldn’t solve the problem; he couldn’t make the cancer go away.

Elaine tells us that her husband was loving and compassionate during her treatment, but that she was the one who was pushing him away because she had so much anger in her after the cancer returned.

Michael understands how it feels to be totally rejected when you are at your lowest point. One week after he was diagnosed with cancer his wife of twenty years left him!

The majority of the female cancer patients agreed that communication between spouses is vital. The most common advice they gave was to tell your husband exactly what you want. Don’t think that he will automatically know or understand your needs. Many agreed that in most cases he won’t. Some expressed the fact that men are not perfect, so don’t expect them to be faultless as they are also under a great deal of pain and stress.

I was amazed at the strength of character many spouses still possessed when they did not receive the support they so badly needed from their partner. In some situations their lives were dramatically changed, but many of the cancer survivors said that they are now much stronger and more empathetic because of what they had endured.

There are of course other extremely sad situations, but fortunately there are many other stories in which spouses are compassionate, loving caretakers.

If you are involved in cancer in any way, I would love to hear from you. Please click “Leave a Comment” (below this blog) to tell your story or share your feelings about this topic.

Best wishes, Karen

 

Sara Avoledo is my guest blogger today. This wonderful, young woman has courageously volunteered to tell her story about meeting her biological mother online. Thank you, Sara!

Sara Avoledo

A Guest Blog by Sara Avoledo

After reading Karen Higgins novel, A Child of God I have recommended the book to my friends and family.  It is a wonderful novel that I just happened to read shortly after finding my own birth mother and her family online.  The characters and the emotions portrayed in Higgins’ novel really struck a chord with me.  I cried as Mary Simpson thought about the circumstances that lead up to her placing her child with adoptive parents and I cried even harder when Joan, her daughter, found her 35 years later and was reluctant to proceed with learning more about her biological family, because these were the feelings that I went through as well, just a few short months ago.

My name is Sara Avoledo and I am almost 32 years old.  I have always known that I was adopted and have always loved to hear my (adopted) parents tell the tale of how they were blessed to be able to adopt and bring me home with them.  I have also always been curious about who my birth parents were though, as every adopted child is I am sure.  But things changed when I found  a website where you can search for adoptees and biological family members (http://www.canadianadopteesregistry.org) and I saw that a possible birth aunt of mine had been searching for me for 20+ years.  Now a potential connection had been made.

At that point, I became consumed with finding out more if this was indeed my biological family or not, but at the same time I was reluctant to go any further.  I searched online in whatever ways I could and tried to narrow down names, dates and locations.  During this time, and because I have a young son of my own, I was constantly thinking about what it must have been like to give a child up for adoption, but  I was also always thinking about what my early days as a baby must have been like, just as the characters in the book had.

I needed help.  So I asked another family member who is adopted as well, and has found her biological family for advice.  She suggested some books to read about the adoption triangle or triad.  These books (http://www.canadaadopts.com/canada/resources_books.shtml) explained to me the effects and intricacies of the relationships between the adoptive family, the biological family and the adoptee and what to expect if a reunion is to occur.  So after a lot of soul searching, reading and researching, I took the plunge and started chatting with my biological mother and aunt through Facebook.

After speaking to my biological mother online, I applied to get official documentation from the Government (http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/community/records/index.aspx) with regards to my original birth certificate, which would prove if this was indeed the woman I was looking for or not.  Her family and I only exchanged brief details about our lives at that point and some of my biological mother’s family also added me on Facebook and were chatting with me online.  One day soon after, the birth aunt that had been searching for me openly for so long, sent me some old pictures of her and her siblings when they were young and one of the sisters and I could have been identical twins at that young age…It was then that I knew this had to be a match.

The emotions that I went through during this time were intense and scary but also exciting.  I lay in my bed crying one whole night after learning that I had been in hospital after birth for 9 days before going to a foster home. I was thinking, “Who took care of me?” “Did anyone hold me or care for me?” “Why was I left all alone for so long?” But as I spoke to my biological relatives and heard their stories I couldn’t help but be happy at how relieved they were that I had lived a fulfilling life up until this point, had had a wonderful childhood and family to support me, and was happy and had now a family of my own.  My biological mother had done what she had to do at that time in her life, and her family did not push me and still don’t, to do anything I am not ready to do.  At this point I am not ready for anything more than chatting online.  But someday I will get up the courage to meet them.  It is an important final step for me as I know it is for them.

In closing, let me say again how much I enjoyed reading A Child of God and I would recommend it to anyone going through the process or even contemplating the process of searching for their biological family.  The characters are realistic in their emotions and really made a strong impression on me after going through this very emotional experience.  Well done Ms. Higgins, well done.

My novel, A Child of God deals with the raw emotions of two women connecting on the internet. One, a thirty-five year-old,  searching for her biological mother, the other, a fifty-five year old searching for the daughter that she gave up at birth. Before I began writing the novel, I did a great deal of research on that topic, but at the same time I was writing, a close relative decided to try and find his biological parents!

 With the help of ancestry.com and prior knowledge regarding the name of his birth mother, he was able to piece together a family tree very quickly. He thought it would be best to contact one of his biological brothers since it might have been too shocking for his elderly parents. A letter was sent through email to his brother explaining the situation and asking if they could possibly send some health information which he needed. However, several weeks went by without any reply. A facilitator then contacted the brother by phone and discussed the situation with him. Unfortunately, the brother said that he would not send any health history and that he wanted no contact at all. The brother did not seem to doubt that the information was true, but was extremely concerned with his family’s privacy and under no circumstances would he give out any health information.

 What do you think about the above situation? There are so many sides to every story. I have heard accounts about birth parent’s and birth children’s connections that had very happy endings for all involved. However, there are also many situations that do not end well. One person may feel that their privacy is being invaded, while another may feel a very hurtful rejection. It seems like an ideal situation when both parties are looking for one another and eventually connect. However, one or both, may suffer if the meeting does not go well or the other person does not live up to their expectations. I have heard that many adopted children yearn to know their family history and do not feel complete until they do. Other adopted children say that they have no desire to know about their past.

  If you were adopted, or if you have given up a child for adoption, I would love to hear your thoughts and concerns on this topic. Also, for those of you who have made connections with your birth family, I would very much appreciate hearing about your experiences.

 Cheers, Karen

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