Saturday, January 23, 2016

HELLO, I'M VICTORIA by Victoria Chatham

Hello, I’m Victoria and I’m pleased to meet you. I’d rather get to know you than have to write about myself but as my publisher Books We Love suggested we share something of ourselves so our readers can get to know us, I’m creeping out from under my writing stone.

You can take it from that statement that I’m something of an introvert, a trait I believe many writers share. However, I think I came by that attitude as a form of defence. Being a first born I had something of a Type A personality, taking charge even as a child. Once, on overhearing my parents discussing how they were to get to an upcoming regimental dinner and dance, I marched from my grandmother’s house several blocks to the taxi driver’s house and promptly ordered a taxi for them. I was five years old.

But, being constantly on the move as an army brat  drove me into myself and my books. My Dad was classed as a Permanent Staff Instructor to Territorial Army units, but we were anything but permanent. After the third move when I was about eight, I can clearly remember thinking there was no point in making friends. In a year, or less, we would be packing up and moving on again. I started making myself as inconspicuous as I could at each new school I arrived at and although friendly, I chose to not make close friends. As such I was considered something of an oddity and left pretty much alone. Because I read so much I usually had an answer for everything in class, something else that did not endear me to my class mates although my teachers praised my efforts as they totted up my house marks.

My biggest passions were reading and horses. My parents could never understand where this passion sprang from and were less than understanding when I left home to work in a hunt stables. I was in my element with four horses in my string and loved everything about them from Thor's weird sense of humor, Doctor's pleasure in cuddling, Zulaika's fascination with birds and Tangerine's inability to walk, he was a constant jogger. I was at the age, of course, where boys and horses were on a par, until one boy beat the horses by a head and we were married. We produced three children, before parting company fifteen years later.

I’d tried writing as a teenager, lurid tales about Virginia, Girl of the Golden West. Virginia was my alter ego, the girl I would loved to have been. She could ride, shoot, was incredibly brave and did everything I would never have dared to do. I wrote about her freedom with utter longing. Unfortunately, my parents read one of my scribbled stories and laughed until they cried. Probably rightly, but it was a long time before I took up the pen again.

My working life after the horses and the family was a series of office management positions, some interesting others not. In my mid-30’s I took up horse riding again and gained a great deal of pleasure from being around them again. In between times I had variously been on one committee or another, starting with the PTA, then Cubs and Scouts for my boys and Junior Red Cross for my daughter. I was on our family horse riding club committee for years, helping to organize and run shows.

After meeting and marrying a Canadian, I made Calgary, Alberta my home. While my immigration processing proceeded, I volunteered for various organizations until I was able to legally obtain work in my new country. This time I went into apartment management, something that never had a dull moment. You never knew what people were going to do next from the super nice, young professional man who was arrested for drug dealing, to the cheerful hooker I had to evict under the ‘wrongful use of premises’ clause in the lease agreement. After the apartment buildings I managed properties for a self-storage company. No lack of stories there I can tell you! I guess my childhood managing ways came to the fore in the end.

These days I can look back on my varied positions and see how each one involved record keeping and writing of some kind, usually reports. I ran my riding club’s newsletter for a couple of years, wrote a book for my daughter and finally, with huge encouragement from my new husband, took up writing for myself. With my first writing group I was membership director and assistant newsletter editor, then editor for about two years. As such I attended most board meetings. With my second writers group I again managed memberships before moving on to Program Director for monthly meetings and workshops. Whereas some people are intimidated by organization I find great satisfaction in working out all the parts of the whole and making them work together. I guess that five year old still lurks beneath my skin!

These days, and fortunately retired from formal employment, I continue to write, read and volunteer at Spruce Meadows, the world class equestrian centre just south of Calgary. I enjoy hiking and trail riding in the summer. I snow shoe in winter. I’m involved in the AMBER study, a five year study being conducted by the University of Calgary on the effects of diet and exercise on breast cancer patients.

Yes, I’ve beaten that beast twice now. I was first diagnosed in 2006, had treatment in 2007 and had follow up hormone therapy from 2008 to 2013. One year after that it was back again. In 2014 my course of treatment was very different as I refused chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy. Instead I chose surgery for a complete bilateral mastectomy and altered my diet and lifestyle. All the reading and research I did during my first course of treatment convinced me it was not the best for when I faced it again. Along with discussions with my own doctor, my surgeon and oncologist, I consulted with a naturopath and nutritionist. I researched several clinics that were having huge success in treating their cancer patients with alternative therapies. My friend Maxine helped me enormously in researching various superfoods to help boost my immune system. And from my early 30s, when one riding instructor recommended I take up yoga, I still go to class and practise at home most days a week.

I’m happy, healthy and love my life. I have a super group of friends, I visit my family in England as often as I can and have a great deal to be thankful for. While some women worry about maturing (hey, that’s what fine wine does!) I wouldn’t want to be any age again. Been there, done that, I’ll just enjoy now and what’s ahead.