Sunday, October 31, 2004

Tricks and Treats

Halloween night is quick and thorough here at our townhouse complex. The first kids knocked on our door at 5:20pm. Like always, we set up a table in the carport for the steady stream of ghosts, witches, dinosaurs, unicorns, princesses, Pippi Longstockings, robots, hippies, ninjas, pumpkins, tigers and Pooh bears. My husband bought 154 candies, and we ran out. Luckily a couple of neighbours pooled loot with us. We started out inviting the kids to take "one of each" but soon saw we'd be empty in no time, so we stretched it out to last until 7:30. Thank goodness - I'd hate to turn a kid away!

I served coffee and brownies and cookies for the parents as they came by. It's a tradition, and makes it more fun for sure. My neighbour was home alone handing out candies, but just before the fireworks she screamed up to our house on her bicycle to get a brownie. She said it wouldn't be Halloween without one.

At 7:30, trick-or-treating closes. Everyone goes down to the rec. centre for community fireworks. It's a fabulous display and prevents us all from setting our houses and trees on fire by doing it in our small back yards. My husband is one of the lucky volunteers who gets to stand up front with a blowtorch and set off a whole bunch of things that look like dynamite, all pooled by the neighbours. Boom boom boom boom ahhhhhhh!!!!

I think that Halloween is more fun than Christmas.

Question: What do you think?

mompoet - sparkling without chocolate (better not to start, eh?)

PS - Andy carved the gigantor pumpkin on its side, so the stem became its snout. Then he put a strobe light inside, instead of a candle. It was the best jack-o-lantern I've seen - except maybe "puking pumpkin." Well, maybe they are tied.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Dead People, Adolescent Cross-Dressers, Inverted Jack-O'-Lanterns and Dog Tumours

My daughter went to school on Friday in her Halloween costume. She's 11 years old and, in the past, has been a cow, a scarecrow, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. This year, she is "Little Dead Riding Hood." We found a jumper and sweater at Value Village and I sewed her a red, hooded cape. Then she took the scissors to the lot to simulate the results of a wolf attack. Some fake blood completed her look. It's gruesome and very effective.

Dead is probably the #1 theme in middle school costumes. I discovered this last year when our son was in Grade 8. Of course, there are ghouls and zombies and mummies and Jason and Freddy (didn't see any Tabithas, but I bet there were some). More popular though are dead cheerleaders. Last year and this year, Dead Cheerleader was the most popular Halloween Costume at Moody Middle, for girls and boys. Cross-dressing is a favoured at-school activity of 11-13 year old boys. They don't just do it at Halloween either. Last December's spirit assembly featured what I thought at first were 3 very homely girls doing totally manic cheer and dance routine, until I realised they were actually 3 of the best-liked grade 8 boys. One of the teachers confirmed it. "The boys all want to dress up like girls in middle school," she said. My daughter also reports that short boys are admired and sought-after. "Every short boy already has a girl friend. The girls like the little ones," she says. Anyways, there's potential for lots of research into adolescent psychology there in case anyone wants to look into it.

I took the dog to the vet. The tumours are mats of hair that have formed at the base of her ears. Five minutes and $43 dollars later the mats were shaved off and I was instructed in how to properly and regularly comb this sensitive area. The vet tried to comfort me with a story of another canine patient with a similar affliction. Thanks doc, I know, I'm still a beginner dog-person. Mostly I'm relieved that she's not sick.

We carved the pumpkins yesterday afternoon. Behemoth still awaits us in the garage, but the little ones are done. I thought I was so clever, opening mine at the base instead of the top, so the clean curve around the stem is preserved. But then I forgot to flip it right-side-up before I carved the face, so now I have an upside-down-jack-o'-lantern. Hmmm, actually, I kind of like it that way. Yeah! I meant to do that. Right.

By the way, add to your list of things not to do: Jack-o'-lanterns attract bears. Bring all pumpkins indoors after trick-or-treating so the bears are not attracted by the scent of parched pumpkin. It's all over the news. I don't mind disposing of the small ones on Halloween night, but I count on the boys with firecrackers to help get rid of monster pumpkin. If they don't blow it up I have to take an axe to it. It has to be reduced to liftable chunks before it can be put in the dumpster. Last year somebody stole it (all 80 pounds or so) and apparently took it up to the top of the fire road and rolled it down to the bottom - we found the smashed carcass there. I wonder how they got it to the top - you'd need a wheelbarrow, or maybe a skateboard?

So there's all that's weird enough to report for Halloween eve. Happy spooky weekend.

Question: Are you dressing up?

mompoet - gathering up candles and putting on warm socks

ps The middle school principal dressed up as Austin Powers - complete with teeth and English accent all day.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Now in British Columbia - 50% MORE NDP

Jagrup Brar won the Surrey by-election with a healthy margin, so we now have 3 NDP members in the legislature.

Congratulations to Mr Brar and the NDP party! It will be great for Jenny Kwan and Joy McPhail to have a 50% addition to their team. Their work in the legislature has been heroic over these past 3 years.

My son just asked, "What if in the election in May, the NDP gets elected with a majority, but we get stuck with a Liberal MLA in our constituency?" I told him I thought I could live with that but we'll try to do better.

Question: blip or sea change?

mompoet - fizzy

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Day Off

I worked so many hours in the last two weeks that I have to take tomorrow off. It will sure feel good. Things are under control at the office, thanks in large part to the wonderful people with whom I work. And they'll be there tomorrow in case anything unexpectedly pops. So I'm not fretting about things left undone (although there are a few). I'm just going to enjoy the extra day this Halloween weekend.

I have 2 poems bumping around in my head, vying to be the first past the gate. I'll probably work on one or the other. I'm also going to the gym. I've missed a couple days with this week's crazy schedule. I'll do weights and the cycle class (or psycho class as I sometimes call it). It's really hard work, but the benefits are superb. Air tastes delicious to breathe all day long after I do one of those workouts.

Sol goes to the vet mid-afternoon, for those mysterious ear bumps. Then when the kids come home we'll carve pumpkins. Probably nest with a video in the evening. I am so tired, I just want to slow down to a halt. Well, I guess that's what I'll do right now. Get a good sleep. That way I can zip around and do all kinds of things on my day off.

Pillow is singing a song, "come hither...come hither...softy softy softttt..."

Question - zz?

mompoet - idling

Day Off

I worked so many hours in the last two weeks that I have to take tomorrow off. It will sure feel good. Things are under control at the office, thanks in large part to the wonderful people with whom I work. And they'll be there tomorrow in case anything unexpectedly pops. So I'm not fretting about things left undone (although there are a few). I'm just going to enjoy the extra day this Halloween weekend.

I have 2 poems bumping around in my head, vying to be the first past the gate. I'll probably work on one or the other. I'm also going to the gym. I've missed a couple days with this week's crazy schedule. I'll do weights and the cycle class (or psycho class as I sometimes call it). It's really hard work, but the benefits are superb. Air tastes delicious to breathe all day long after I do one of those workouts.

Sol goes to the vet mid-afternoon, for those mysterious ear bumps. Then when the kids come home we'll carve pumpkins. Probably nest with a video in the evening. I am so tired, I just want to slow down to a halt. Well, I guess that's what I'll do right now. Get a good sleep. That way I can zip around and do all kinds of things on my day off.

Pillow is singing a song, "come hither...come hither...softy softy softttt..."

Question - zz?

mompoet - idling

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


That boy is ready. He knows more about the Declaration of Independence than I ever did.

The moon was spectacular, wasn't it? Orange as a pumpkin and almost totally wiped out, then revealed again. I missed the disappearing stage - inside at the dance.

The kids are just kids, young, energetic, faux-mysterious, anxious, jazzed, the teachers and admin people really care about them. I witnessed Principal and Vice Principal talking to a student outside as I left. There's respect and accountability happening in all directions there. My job was to make sure no students went into their lockers or down the stairs. The concern is that they will stash alcohol around the school during the day then go get it at night. I worked the early half of the dance then left before 8, so if there was any excitement, I missed it.

If #1 son decides to go to a dance I won't be worrying about his safety or if he's having a good time. His hearing may be temporarily impaired, but that's what teenagers do. My real concern is his heart. We teach our kids to be safe with sex and drugs and gangs, but what about love? The crush that crushes, the embarassment that overwhelms? I guess everyone goes through it and he will too. Watching the boyfriends and girlfriends strolling made my eyes prickle. I hope when his time comes the swoops will be worth the plummets.

Question: what's a mom to do?

mompoet - loving

Immunization, Poetry Prizes, Dog Tumours and Science Tests

That's about it for now.

mompoet - just kidding

Today I took Grade 6 daughter to the Health Unit for Hep B and Meningococcal C immunization. They handed those out en masse at the school yesterday, but some kids find it too embarassing to line up and get poked. Also, the big grade 7s and 8s punch grade 6s in the arm after they get their shots. The verdict after today's visit to the nurse and 1 in each arm? Easier than getting ears pierced. Well.

I just found out that I won second prize in the Summer Dreams Poetry Contest sponsored by Pandora's Collective. It's for my Venus de Milo poem. The winners are on the website, but the links to the poems don't work yet. I'll post the url when they do. I feel so happy and encouraged. I haven't sent anything out to a contest in a couple of years, so I'm doubly delighted. I had to squoonch the poem down to 40 lines - hard for 3-minute-me to do. I turned it into a prose poem, and it worked.

Soleil the big black dog has mysterious lumps, one at the base of each ear. Their symmetry makes me think it's glands or something, but they weren't there before. So off to the vet we go. She has been pretty much her usual self lately, except that she stole 6 bagels off the counter the other night while we were sleeping. Maybe they are bagel tumours - surgery will reveal poppy seeds and some raisins.

Grade 9 son has a science test Friday and a Socials test Thursday, so I'm helping with the study cards and review. They're studying energy in science - magnetic, mechanical, potential, kinetic, hypothetical, imaginary, gratuitous (ooops, not those last 3). In socials - English Parliament and the American Revolution. (?) okay, I know that's important, but what does it mean to grade 9s? Luckily my boy loves a good story, and has a good memory for all of these people and battles and successions. Maybe he'll take after his mom and study it in university too?

Oh yeah, also the High School Dance. Never went to many when I was there, but I'm volunteering tonight. Son is staying home (not interested). I want to find out what goes on there. I have discovered that any opportunity to be at the school when people are busy and not putting on an open house or a prepared meeting is a very good time to find out what it's really like. Snoop snoop snoop. I think my job will be to sit beside a door through which students are not to pass. Security-Mom at your service!

Question - what does any of this have to do with anything?

mompoet - trying to remember to look outside and see the moon in shadow tonight

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


We meant to decorate the carport on the weekend, but it was raining too hard, then we went out to the movie. I got the boxes out of the attic, but that's as far as we got.

Monday afternoon it was raining, but still light outside. With the prospect of a very busy week ahead and a free hour right now, I said "Let's do it." Son got lower braces added in the morning so he was moaning and taking ibuprofen and feeling pretty lousy. Daughter was studying for a science test before her rehearsal, so husband and I did the job.

In our neighbourhood the houses are close together. Carports adjoing and front yards are non-existent. We live on the street a lot, though. Everyone has deck chairs and bicycles in their carport. The kids play while the adults chat. Cats stroll, dogs are promenaded. Cars do the obligatory crawl or risk having a dozen voices call sternly "Slow down! There's kids out here!" It's a pretty people friendly street.

For all special days we decorate. Canada Day is a riot of real flags poking precariously off balconies and out of eavestroughs. Christmas is over-the-top. Good thing the tour buses haven't heard about us! Halloween is just goofy. There are more pumpkins assembled in our complex already than in the rest of the lower mainland. By Halloween night, more houses than not will have lights and lanterns and witches, bats and ghosts.

We own about 4 boxes of stuff we've accumulated over the years - mostly home-made by the kids, but also dollar-store novelty bits that husband-shopper has brought home. He hung up all of the electrical stuff while I did the lower-tech. It took us about 35 minutes, and the place looks like it. There's a scarecrow staple-gunned to a post and those goofy plastic bags stuffed with straw that look like ghosts and pumpkins (well, not really, but you get the idea) staple-gunned along the eaves. A row of "creepy masks" from Dover books finishes the non-electrical picture - oh yeah, there's caution tape too - Stay Back! Danger! Halloween House! For lights there are pumpkins, skulls, purple spiders, flashing pumpkins and black spiders. The actual pumpkin vegetables are still in hiding to avoid smashage. Our friends brought us another behemoth this year - must be 80 pounds. We'll carve the beast on Saturday (with a chain saw?) It's big enough to imprison a wolverine inside, but husband plans to put a strobe light in it. Cooooolllll.

What were two grownups doing outside on a drippy, cold Monday afternoon with a staple gun and boxes of tacky decorations? our neighbourhly duty? reliving childhood? unleashing stifled creativity? meaningless obligation? moon-crazy obsession? Whatever, it looks good when it's dark out.

Question: Did you?

mompoet - not likely to get hired for any display windows anytime soon

Monday, October 25, 2004








mompoet - continuouslybeing

Sunday, October 24, 2004

I am trying to love America

I am trying to think loving thoughts about America.

I am imagining that there is good intention, buried somewhere in the frenzy. I am assuming that the people who are preparing to badger and bully voters and senior citizens working at the polls in the name of democracy are doing it because of liberty, justice, and truth and not just because they are afraid they will lose some advantage.

I am thinking that there has to be more hope than fear, more generosity and idealism than isolationism, more love than distrust.

I am hoping that everyone will remember the definition of "society" that was taught to us in grade 9 social studies - something about people agreeing that taking care of everyone is more important than taking care of just one's self and one's own. I'm sure they teach that in American schools too.

I am hoping that fight or flight will not prevail, that pluralism doesn't translate into a civilization designed by a committee - just good enough to offend everyone equally, just bad enought to please nobody.

I am picturing America on election day, remembering what it was meant to be, being better than its promise, walking like a prayer.

I am trying to think loving thoughts about America.

Question: ???

mompoet - discouraged but still hopeful

Friday, October 22, 2004

Seth (and others) to the Rescue

Back at the Asset Building Conference today, I started talking to people at my table about my worries about this model of market-based poverty-reduction being used as an excuse to spend even less on income support for poor people. Lots of people were thinking the same thing. In the meantime, several of the presenters pointed out that asset-building programs like Individual Development Accounts (see my previous post if this sounds like Greek) are a complement to income assistance, affordable housing, public schools and universities, job training, universal medical care etc. So I was starting to feel better.

Then at the lunchtime panel (yup, they kept talking even while we ate lunch - no time wasted at this event) Seth Kline of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives spoke. This turned my doubts around. Here's what Seth said, in a nutshell:

  • While he agrees with many of the things that the asset-building people are saying, he is concerned that some governments will see asset-building as a substitute for social welfare systems and income support.
  • The asset-building model is helpful only to a subset of those in need of assistance.
  • Current social policies are in conflict with the asset-building approach and penalize people for saving money for a small business or education.
  • He is skeptical about programs geared to fix policy mistakes. He sees some asset-building initiatives as less comprehensive and administratively more expensive replacements for good programs that have been eliminated. For example, learning bonds and RESPs are good, but don't replace accessible, affordable post-secondary education.
I was willing to turn my optimism up because the organizers of the conference invited Seth, knowing he would express this point of view. The rest of the speakers throughout the day referred to his remarks, agreeing with them, as they framed their comments and recommendations. At the end of the day, in the wrap-up, several speakers talked about the need for those at the forefront of the asset-building movement to ensure that asset-building is seen as just one approach in a continuum of services and supports for people in need.

I also ate lunch with VanCity and Western Economic Diversity representatives, and talked to them about the kinds of criteria their organizations consider in choosing which projects to support. What I heard was a sincere commitment to programs that initiatives that build strength in communities and strengthen the economy at the same time. Sure, they're doing it because it's good for the corporation, and good for the government, but it's good for the people too, which gives me a nauseous and disoriented feeling because I think if I look in the mirror there will be Gordon Campbell's head stuck on my body and it's still a week before Halloween. But maybe this can work, to some degree, and with some degree of real goodness.

I'm exhausted and overwhelmed, with a stuffed and stretched brain. I will sleep and go back for 4 more hours tomorrow, then it's over, but it's never over, really....

Question: Sincere good intention or slickety-smart PR move?

mompoet - not quite ready to buy the Brooklyn Bridge but willing to have a look

mompoet's brain gets stretched

Last night I attended the opening of a conference about Asset Building. My work is sending me. I'll be there all day today and Saturday morning. The conference is in Burnaby, and I expected people from parts of BC, but last night I met people from other parts of Canada too. Public sector people and not-for-profit types mostly, but also people from VanCity, Western Economic Diversity, The Vancouver Foundation and SEDI (Social Enterprise and Development Innovations).

Someone asked me yesterday what "asset building" is. I admitted that I'm not really sure, but I think of it in two ways. When I am optimistic, I think of it as tapping into all of the power and good in the community that lies dormant when we don't invite people to participate or when people and agencies don't work together. When I'm being cynical, I think of it as making the people and agencies who are still standing during tough times work together to pick up the burden laid down by those who could not go on.

Last night we heard from 3 women who have particpated in asset building programs in their communities. In this case the programs were sponsored and supported by VanCity. In each case, people were invited to begin Individual Development Accounts - basically bank accounts where they could save $15 to $50 per month for up to 3 years, saving for a specific goal (home ownership, education or small business startup). They attended monthly financial management meetings and received individual mentoring. VanCity matched their savings 3:1. Each woman was able to save enough to start something new: One, who is an immigrant with a degree that doesn't count in Canada went back to school for a year and now has work. Another started a home-based business that blossomed. A third impressed the VanCity people and ended up getting a full-time job with their company. Programs like this are being piloted all over the world. What impressed me in what the women said was how the experience changed their convictions about their own potential to participate and be successful and independent. One said, "I just wanted someone to give me a chance. Nobody did that before."

I.D.A.s are just one form of asset building. I'm going to learn about other models and case studies and meet other people from other organizations interested in doing this kind of work. My work thinks it's my job to do this, which is really cool.

I am curious and warily impressed. I know this can't be the panacaea for poverty and financial accessibility, but just the fact that 200 people have got together to find out more about what they are calling "an investment economy" as in investing in people's potential, is very compelling. The keynote speaker last night woke up my brain by saying that in order to do this we would have to "get into bed with people who we hadn't considered before." He talked about people setting aside political differences and public sector/not-for-profit and business working together. For someone like me who is very suspicious of anything big companies do, this is an uncomfortable stretch. I will go to the sessions with my optimism turned on, but my skepticism running in the background. I would love it if we could continue our social welfare system to take care of people, and at the same time, developed policy and practice to effectively enable more people to participate in productive and self-sufficient living. Are there really companies with hearts? Is there the political will to make these changes? Can I (and should I) drop my prejudice against rich people and their corporations and give each one a chance on his/her/its own merits?

Question: That is the question

Mompoet: wanting a paradigm shift, not a bait and switch

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Our Competition

Thanks to my Dad, here's the list of the cities against whom Port Moody competed:

Port Moody will go head-to-head against 14 other cities with populations between 20,001 and 75,000. Those cities include Ballyfermot, Ireland; Camden, Australia; Celje, Slovenia; Coffs Harbour Local Government Area, Australia; Fayetteville, U.S.A.; the Municipality of Kamnik, Slovenia; City of Kladno, Czech Republic; Commune of Nabeul, Tunisia; Port Stephens Council Area, Australia; Ptuj, Slovenia; Qian Dao Hu, China; Salekhard, Russia; Westmont, U.S.A.; and Znojmo, Czech Republic.

This is from our local paper on September 31 via Google. So far no word on who came in first and second. I will award a lovely prize to anyone who can find this information and get it to me first. Guess if you like, but for the prize, you need verification.

Personal opinions will be interesting too, in case anyone has actually visited any of these places. Come to think of it, it would make a great theme trip - around the world to see the places not quite as nice as Port Moody. Hmmmm

Question: WHO WON????

mompoet - inquizzzitive

We're Number 3!

Port Moody, the beautiful little city, was voted a whole bunch of awards in a "most liveable community" competition. Over all we came out 3rd world-wide. I'm still trying to find out who-all competed and who came in first and second. Here's a news clipping.

Not that we need an award to know that this is a great place to live. I love this city for so many reasons. We look out the window at the ocean and can walk to it and walk around it whenever we want. We have a great community theatre and arts centre, museum, artists' studios open to the public and lots of community groups including a film society and a writers' group. We have only one library, but it's like a house in a dream - small on the outside, huge on the inside. There are churches and martial arts schools, two outdoor pools for our kids and parks, trails and woodsy spots. We have a community garden, even "faux Whistler" at Newport Village. There are pubs and restaurants and so far no big box stores. By car or transit you can be downtown in 30 minutes. Everywhere you go in Port Moody, you know somebody. No wonder we won!

When my husband and I bought our house, we thought we'd live here for a couple of years, until we could afford a bigger house, probably farther east, in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows. Thirteen years later, we have not budged. This is a great place to live.

Question: Why would we live anywhere else?

mompoet: nesty

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Posting postponed for tonight while I read voluminous pages of instructions and mark my ballot for the US elections. Gonna mail it express post tomorrow morning.

Vote, give blood, spend time with your kids, be nice to dogs and cats, share you snacks, let cars in, object to the objectionable, hold the elevator door, say thank you to the bus driver, tip the server, that's all I ask.

Question: What would you add to the list?

mompoet - happy to oblige

Too Much Week, Too Little Me

Accckk. Long days, hard work - all good stuff but too much. I'm working Monday through Saturday this week because of a conference, and only Friday evening at home with the family (I think - better check that conference schedule). And at work it's meeting-meeting-meeting-meeting-meeting so the list extends and the pile grows higher. Good thing I love my job!

Went to a Poetry House meeting last night which was fantastic. We got to work on actually planning the 2005 Canadian Spoken Word Olympics. It feels good to get started and make some decisions. It'll be a lot of work, but fun and rewarding, and an opportunity to do something with a group of very good people.

My mom told me one day that she thinks we have some kind of energy that most people don't have. When I look at weeks like this (not even unusual) and at the pace of her days too, I believe her. Is it genetic? learned? conditioned? Why do we not sit down? Why do we get revved up by more work and excited by complicated projects? I'll never know why, but I'm glad I can do it. It's like going to the gelato store and being allowed to have 8 flavours when other poeple can manage 1 or 2 tops. Delicious, if sometimes a bit overwhelming.

Off we go to today now....tarump, tarump, tarump.

Question: How much work can a worker work if a worker likes her work?

mompoet: wound up at 6:30 in the morning

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Corporations in Schools - Good new Tyee Article

This article by Judith Ince of The Tyee is right on the mark. I'm sad to see so many examples from my own school district used in it. More food for thought for our intrepid Consortium 43.

Question: What about your $chool?

mompoet - pushing this one up on the priority list

Happy Fallout

At Shoreline Writers' Society's monthly meeting today we welcomed two new members. Both came to us after participating in our October 2 workshop at the Port Moody Library. New members are always exciting, and they want us to do more workshops. We want to do more workshops. We'll look at the calendar next month and plan more workshops (along with our other half-dozen events that we do each year). Shoreline is small (about a dozen active members) but mighty, and mighty happy too.

Question: What's good?

mompoet - exzuberated

In the Newspaper this Morning

In case you didn't know all this important stuff:

  • Purple is the new black
  • Guys in parking lots knocking out women with perfume samples that are really ether is an urban myth
  • The recipe for shrunken heads is available on page A3
  • There are 30 or 40 "active bears" on the North Shore
  • Goth culture is less about death and more about cool clothes
  • Telus just made a sponsorship deal with Science World which will now be renamed "TELUSphere"
  • There's a real crisis in the US around the flu shot shortage
This information does not reflect the beliefs or opinions of mompoet. In some cases it does not reflect reality. But it's in the paper this morning. Gotta go to the library today and get a good book.

Question: Do you buy it?

mompoet - wondering whether to shred it or forget it

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Oh Barf!

I watched Supersize Me on video last night with the family. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a watch. Our kids aren't into McDonalds food anyhow (one likes sushi, the other likes bagels, both love szechuan) but now they won't go, they tell me. Hey, that's good!

Question: Are you what you eat?

mompoet - omnivorous, but in moderation

Friday, October 15, 2004

Some Days Beauty Just Gets in your Face

What a day. Not just because it's Friday. Mostly because of unexpected beauty. Today at lunch I went for a neighbourhood walk with my friend Louise. She spotted some beautiful spider webs on a gate. Then we noticed them on a hedge, a tree and everywhere. There were hundreds of them - seemingly all the same size, shape and design, and all covered with jewels of rain. They were so evenly distributed and obviously placed it was almost like someone had put them there for set decoration in a movie. Scientifically thinking, the spiders are probably genetically programmed to build webs a certain distance from each other to maximize their feeding and avoid damaging each other's work - but from an aesthetic and emotional point of view, it was magic.

Walking the dog through the green belt behind our house I saw about 8 different kinds of wild mushrooms. The variety and abundance is like nothing I've ever seen around here. They looked like pictures of mushrooms in a fairy tale book - or maybe marzipan mushrooms at a European bakery. I guess the hot dry summer and this gentle, misty rain make for ideal conditions. Wish I knew which are edible and which are deadly, but then again, I love just seeing them where they are. So far no fairy sightings, but I'll keep my eyes open.

And finally, a carpet of red. The broad leaf maple dropped her entire walloping glory on the hillside tucked up between two rows of our houses. Chestnut and scarlet wherever I looked. Magnificent.

Sometimes beauty is visible only out of the corner of your eye. Sometimes it comes upon you slowly, as perception develops and matures. Sometimes, like today, it pokes you in the belly and says "Boing!" You have to love when it does that.

Question - Got beauty?

mompoet - dazzled

Activist Moms

The fall season for grassroots political action has begun in the Coquitlam School District. On Tuesday night I attended a forum at the University Women's Club called "Our Schools, Our Future." One of the panelists was Gwenda, a founding member of our own Consortium 43. She did a fabulous job. The whole evening was very interesting. We heard from a school administrator, ministry rep, teachers' union rep, parent advocate for children with learning disabilities and Gwenda, our own advocate for education funding.

That was a powerful kickoff for last night when we worked late to get our submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance before the deadline (midnight). Jennie, another founding member, compiled a very good financial analysis of the funding province wide from 2001-2008. Basically she demonstrated that even with "surprise" funding additions, local districts have been running with smaller real "per pupil" funding amounts since 2001 and will likely continue to do so until 2008. We added to this a description of some of the resulting changes in services in our district and in specific schools.

Our report will be just one of hundreds received by the government, coming from all parts of the political spectrum and all kinds of interests. It feels good to get it done, and a bit easier because we sumbitted a report last year also. We are learning as we go, raising a bit of awareness and sharing and networking with other interested citizens (whether or not the government pays attention to what we say). Oh yeah, that reminds me: send a copy of the submission to the local papers. Last year we got some good coverage of the issues that way - one more thing for the list!

If you want to know more about Consortium 43, you can contact us at

Oh yeah, and mark your calendar for May 17, 2005, when we know we can make a difference.

Question: What's happening at your school?

mompoet - finding spare molecules to point toward another critically good cause

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Voice

Me and the cold are neck and neck. I am insisting that I will win.
The voice is caving to the cold. Maybe I will get that happy laryngitis thing where I just sound awful and get lots of sympathy, but basically feel okay.
Pluses: Taking echinacea and zinc and drinking water, heading to bed now (early)
Minuses: Skipped the gym this morning, glass of wine now (cancels out echinacea?)
Benefit: The voice - oh la la - call me on the phone tomorrow, it's a good voice!
Deficit: The ears - cottonful uselessness mmmfff
Oh well: whole day in the office tomorrow (finally) with only one meeting at 5pm and a szechuan lunch promised at work. Chili is good for stuffy noses.

Question: what about the wine? Do you think it'll hurt? Maybe not if I whine while I drink it?

mompoet - snuzzled but not defeated

ps Thankx Mom. I will add vitamin C to the mix. Ate about 20 little tomatoes at lunch - does that count?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Republicans First Off the Mark

The Knox County Elector's Office must have received my request to be registered as an absentee voter, because I just received airmail campaign literature from the Ohio Republicans in the county where I lived when I was 4 years old, just before moving to Canada. Now I know who not to vote for.

I became a Canadian citizen when I was in university and Ronald Reagan was elected president of the US. I assumed that I would cease being American at that time, but it didn't work. The guy at the US Consolate said that unless I joined the Canadian Armed Forces or something equally extreme, I would continue to be an American. So I still vote in the presidential elections, not that it has worked lately.

(Un)fortunately?? my children are not American. They would be if I had spent a minimum of 2 years past the age of 14 living in the US. So if your mom goes through puberty after leaving the country, you are not a citizen, even if she is. Still, I can live and work in either country, so could probably get us all down there if I wanted to. Now that Andrew is working for Technicolour, it's not impossible, but it sure wouldn't be my choice.

I will vote. In big old Republican Ohio, it might make a difference, if only a symbolic one.

Question: Whoda Thunkit?

mompoet - citizen of north america once I figure out how to join Mexico

Monday, October 11, 2004


Tumbleweed is growing in my throat. Nose is balking at simple breathing activity. I'm gobbling echinacea and sucking zinc lozenges, and I blasted a full hour, hard and hot in a cycle class this a.m. to try to simulate a virus-snuffing fever. Alas, I think despite my efforts, I am getting a cold.

Last hope is positive thought. Send me some white light, please if you read this. Picture me hoovering lungfulls of fresh air, singing, "The hills are alive...." (if you prefer, you can imagine it with the mute button on) I will think positive too. Don't have time for this right now, no way!


Question: What's your remedy? I can use all the help I can get!

mompoet - viral spiralling

How to Help?

Thanksgiving was peaceful and plentiful for our family. Two desperate situations came to light, however. I'm adding them to my online journal on the outside chance someone who can help may read this.

Rachel Adams and Mark Rempel are missing. You may have read the story in Sunday and Monday's Vancouver Province. If not - here is a photo of Rachel. There's a photo of Mark in the Province. I just couldn't get a link to work. They have been missing since Thursday. There are signs of a struggle at Rachel's apartment. Their families and friends have been searching and there's been a media blitz, but so far nothing. Their families think they may have gone up to Whistler, so if you know anyone who lives there, or who spent Thanksgiving weekend there, will you please forward this information? They may be driving a white 1988 Nissan 300ZX with a missing bumper. If you have any clues, please call the Vancouver Police.

At church on Sunday morning, our minister told us that a woman is living in the church because she has run out of resources and lost her home. The woman's name is Linda. She lost her job, ran out of EI, cashed in her RRSPs and sold her car. On September 30 she was forced to give up her apartment that she has lived in for 30 years. She has begun receiving Income Assistance, but that's only $525/month for a single person with no dependents. She is looking for a furnished room with access to kitchen and bath. I'm sure cash donations would help too. If you know of an opportunity or if your family has some extra to share with her, you can contact Reverend Mary Duncan at St. Andrew's United Church in Port Moody 604 939-5513, or call me. If you're the prayerful type, please add Rachel, Mark and Linda and their families to your list for the next few days.

Last night in the car on the way to Thanksgiving supper I thought I was in a cactus patch. My husband was exhausted and stressed from work, and not at his friendly best. The kids were being 11 and 14 and sniping at each other and us. For a moment I wanted to be somewhere else. But then I thought of all of the somewhere elses that are really bad and sad, not just temporarily irritating, and I was truly thankful.

Question: Can you help?

mompoet - sobered

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Turkey Turkey

Our family will celebrate Thanksgiving today. There's a Thanksgiving service at church, but the kids have opted out because there's no Sunday School or youth group. Andrew is a Christmas-only goer, so it's just me heading down there. I'm looking forward to participating in Mary's service right through. Teaching Sunday School is very rewarding, but I miss what's going on upstairs.

Supper is at Andrew's Mom's place. My parents are still in Cranbrook, so it will be a small gathering, with a big bird I'm sure. Andrew's mom cooks a complete, traditional supper on such occasions. She is so gracious, she has incorporated my Mom's favourites into her meal. So there'll be little shrimp cocktails, V8 juice, mashed potatoes and a pickle tray (her traditions) and also brussels sprouts and yam casserole ( my mom's). Even though my parents won't be able to come this time, she still does it that way. Dessert is dedicated to the kids. There will be 4 in all, our two and Andrew's brother's two grown sons. Each one will find his or her favourite pie or ice cream, plus the famous can of whipped cream (which we don't splurge on at our house). I think the kids look foward to force-feeding aerosol whipped cream to each other more than anything else. Adults have to look out or we get attacked too. Actually, it's a lot of fun. "Hey Mom, open your mouth, close your eyes and be ready for a BIG surprise...."

I'm not crazy about the big English style meal. I like the leftovers better. Andrew's mom will send us home with a care package, so we'll have turkey stir fry (including brussels sprouts) this week. Then we'll make soup with the bones, which is really the best part. I could live on homemade soup of various kinds. mmmmm

Question: Why do I spend so much time thinking about food?

mompoet - I yam what I yam HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Can I try that again?

Sean and Chrystalene of the West Coast Poetry Festival and Ten Dollar Words invited me to record a poem for a CD they are putting together. The spoken word artists who featured at the festival are each recording a poem. I'm very grateful to be asked, as I wasn't a feature. I did host a couple of shows, so was included on that basis.

The recordings are being made at Western Front, a really cool gallery/performance place in Vancouver. I've never been there before so it was really interesting to have a look. We recorded in a big open space, rather than a little booth, which felt good. I've been in the little booth at Co-op Radio, and it's so weird - especially the sound. The room just gobbles all of the sound before it has a chance to go anywhere. I know that's the way it's supposed to be when you are recording, but it is weird to talk in a room where invisible sound-suckers capture and devour the vibrations. I am tempted to shout, just to find out how loud it would have to be to make a lasting impression.

My husband, Andrew, came with me. That made me happy. He doesn't come to the slam partly because of the late hours. Also, the spoken word scene just isn't his thing. That's okay. We do a lot of things separately. I was glad he wanted to come this time, to hear my poems other than hollered around the house and to meet some of my poetry friends.

Anyway, I sucked at it. Totally, big-time. I know Sean and Chrystaline, and Sara, who recorded,were very kind and said I did just fine, but honestly, I was awful - forgot my words, mispronounced, ran out of breath. I stopped short of channelling Porky Pig, but I was pretty close. I couldn't figure out why it was so much more difficult than when I am on stage. I hardly ever forget my words of lose my momentum when I perform. Why was I such a vocal gimp in this new setting?

As we drove away, I figured it out. The room was set up with the microphone facing away from where the people were seated, so I could see them only out of the corner of my eye. I was staring into the flyswatter screen that goes in front of the mic, so I closed my eyes part of the time - but either way, there was nobody to look at. No contact, no response. I need to see faces because when I perform my poems I am communicating. I practise a lot on my own, but I always picture an audience. It's not enough to know people are listening. I have to see in their eyes that they hear me.

If I get a chance to do this another time, I'll know to ask someone to sit in front of me. I bet it will work. I hope I get another chance. Except for sucking big-time it was fun.

Question: Did you ever discover you couldn't do something that you thought you could do?

mompoet - breathing out

Friday, October 08, 2004

Something about a Shovel?

Stupid BC Liberal comment of the day that proves they are just Socreds with a new label:

On the way to work this morning I heard a sound bite on the news that was so outrageous I stopped and wrote it down. I can't find the quote anywhere on the web tonight, but I promise you I heard him say these words.

Lorne Mayencourt, touting his new Safe Streets Act, on "squeegee people:"

"If somebody wants to hop between cars they should get down to the A&W."

I know I am not the first to draw the parallel, but we have to keep reminding ourselves, and everyone we know. Our opportunity to make things better is coming in May 2005.


Question: Should I even be surprised?

mompoet - still holding on to the concept of compassion and human decency

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Go Team(s) Vancouver

The first ever Canadian Spoken Word Olympics are happening right now in Ottawa. Vancouver sent two teams to compete. I hope they both win (but I'm really voting for team 2). I came close to making it onto that team, and will work hard to improve my chances for next time. I wish I could be there to cheer on our teams, and soak up the talent and energy that must be buzzing around this event. Also, it must be interesting to be in Ottawa during the first days of the minority government. I bet there will be less bickering and more sporting behaviour in the halls of slam than in the halls of parliament this week.

Yay Vancouver! Hurray Slam! Come home happy Teams 1 & 2!

Question: If Jean Charest isn't Prime Minister of Canada after all, could he maybe be a judge at a poetry slam?

Mompoet - keeping the faith

Count me in with the "Negatives"

This article in the online newspaper The Tyee illustrates how our public schools are becoming "haves" and "have-nots" according to the wealth and financial savvy of their parent communities. I have never met Jeff Bickerstaff, The King of Parent Fundraisers, but I do know Patty Bacchus, Julianne Doctor and Maureen Bayless, from my school funding advocacy work. If they are "The Negatives," I'm on the Negative team for sure.

Question: How much would you pay for a ride to hell in a handbasket?

Mompoet - laughing at the irony, crying about the reality

Hi Mom, Hi Dad!

My parents drive up to Cranbrook today to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with my sister and her husband and kids. I miss them already.

I don't know why I always feel this way when they are away from home, but I do. I'm not worried for their safety. I'm not jealous that they got to go and I didn't. It's no trouble, really. They don't even ask me to feed their cat. It's more like my world is a bit off kilter when they are not where they're supposed to be. It's like my big picture of "all is well" has a piece temporarily out of place. There's a word for it. I'll find it and post it later.

When they're home we can go for days without a phone call or visit - it's not like we're the kind of people who check in even if we have nothing to say. It's more about knowing, "Yup, they're there. Good." I've talked to them about about it so they know. They make an extra effort to stay in touch because of it. They take along their computer notebook and check email and send me reports on how the trip is going. We probably talk more about the details of their day when they are away than when they are home.

I wonder if it's because I'm the first child, and I've never quite let go of all of my identification with them. Maybe it's my stubborn streak - not wanting anything to happen that I didn't plan. But I don't think so.

Gestalt - there it is.

Oh well, nice to know I'm weird in more than one way. But this is a nice part of weirdness, mostly to do with loving, I think.

Hi Mom, Hi Dad. I hope you're having a good trip.

Question: Is that the right word?

mompoet - balancing on a three-legged chair

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Kirsi made me do it

Kirsi says I forgot to say that I came in second at the Vancouver Poetry Slam Monday night. She says if I don't post this information she will reveal to the world that I copy all of my poems off the back of cornstarch boxes and skytrain tickets.

Question: Is that good, Kirsi?

mompoet - slam-happy yeah!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Things that made me laugh

Feeling itchy, restless and distracted. Shouts, tears, laughter and inappropriate snorts all near the surface on a day just too busy for low-level impulse control. Luckily laughter prevailed. These things made me laugh out loud (and those who know me know what that sounds like):

*That was not a smileycon just there. It was a bracket and a colon. I don't do 'cons.
  • A skeleton. Don't ask me why - about 40 cm tall, dangling over a hanging basket on a neighbour's house, as I walked the dog this morning.
  • A German Shepherd sitting in the middle of the street while it was still sunny. Just sitting there. I drove my car around him v e r y s l o w l y, laughing. He didn't even crack a smile.
  • A beagle, singing a sad song outside the video store, and a man, standing inside the video store shaking his finger at the beagle singing outside the video store.
  • An email from a friend telling me that families at the Preschool Fair spoke languages from every continent except penguin. It was only funny because I didn't get it and had to email her back to ask her to explain it, then I laughed at how stoopid I was not to get it.
  • Then I thought, is the opposite of a continent an incontinent? and I thought I was funny.
  • "Pumpkin-scooping kits" at Walmart. I didn't know what's funnier, the idea, or the sound of the words. (Luckily store security was not nearby)
Okay, you can detect that these are not hilarious things. But laughing at them felt good.

Question: Ha ha ha ha ha...right?

mompoet - "I'm a little teapot!"

Poet on Call

Mompoet stayed out late Monday night at the slam. Taking her place for today's post is a Poet On Call..

Click here for notmompoet.

Question: Unquestionable

notmompoet - prancing and spitting, and wearing paniers

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Big Goofy Grins

So we stood outside of the church holding signs telling bikers that Jesus loves them. A few ignored us, or at least rode by without seeming to notice. Most got big, goofy grins on their faces as they passed. Whether some of them thought we were a joke doesn't matter. We touched them anyway. There were hundreds of them - mostly rough looking characters on Harley Davidsons. Some were dressed as Santa. Some had toys strapped to the handlbars. One had a chihuahua in his jacket. Watching their faces crinkle up was too much fun. The kids got a kick out of it too.

After the parade we went in for Communion, the first served by our new minister. She seems to be good stuff. She brought her bread machine and set it up beside the communion table before the service, and the bread was ready just in time. Very cool. Afterwards I talked to her about the biker parade and told her that I saw a moral dilemma in my decision to take my class to greet the bikers. She said she felt the same way when she heard that it was the plan for the morning. She said her perspective is that Jesus loves everyone, even if he doesn't love everything they do. The way things timed out, I didn't get to talk with the kids about the issue. Next week we will start with that conversation.

Big goofy grins. Ha! I just kept thinking, no matter what's in a person's heart, or what a person has done or will do, there are reasons in that person's heart for what he or she has done. Also, there's a chance that some time in the future, that person may have an experience or a change of heart and end up taking a turn towards goodness. In the meantime, why not remind that person that he or she is loved?

Question: Did anyone tell you today?

mompoet - feeling okay about loving probable participants in organized crime

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Parallel Universe

Check the new Weebl and Bob animation entitled parallel. I love Weebl and Bob.

Question: Do you?

mompoet - not purple and mostly not egg-shaped, but I do like pie

Workshop Worked

Jody, Jim and I put on a workshop today at the Port Moody Library. We planned and promoted it to people who are "closet writers," ready to take the first step and dare to call themselves writers and do it in public. We kept it simple: introductions, a 5 minute free-write, round table discussion of why we write, some writing exercises and a book talk by the librarian. We don't see ourselves as experts. Our objective was to share some of our enjoyment of writing and perhaps attract some new members to our writing group.

What a wonderful, amazing time we had. Thirteen people came, 11 women and 2 men. Most told similar stories: I've been writing since I was little. I stopped writing because life got busy. Now I've started again, and it was frightening for me to come here, but I just have to find a way to get going with this thing I have to do. For a moment I felt way out of my depth, like I was unexpectedly presiding at some 12-step meeting, only nobody told me the steps or something. (Lucky thing Jim's a counsellor!) Then I remembered myself just 8 years ago, scared silly walking into my first meeting with the Shoreline Writers. I remember that I felt like such an idiot presuming that anyone might be interested in my poems and stories. But I was brave, I brought and read a story called Dinosaur Mom that I made up to convince the kids to eat their broccoli. Everyone at Shoreline was friendly and encouraging and told me I had to keep going with my writing. When I listened to the other writers there that day, I knew that I could learn from them and that I did belong there. I was worthy of this.

Witnessing some of the women going through this experience today was an unexpected joy and very special privilege. They came in tight as the buds on November rhododendron bushes, then began opening. Only they popped open like popcorn. Something like magic happened. They were laughing and reading out loud and saying things like, "I really want to be with other writers. Listen to me...other writers! I've never said that before." We did some writing exercises and they shared some of their spontaneous work, which was very very good. By the end of the three hours the room was filled with such a good feeling. For Jody, Jim and me, it was like some surge of wonderful power. Who knew it would be so awe-inspiring? But it was.

Now Jim wants to plan a series of workshops. I wonder if the Library would accommodate us? What fun it would be to watch this garden grow!

Question: Have you been waiting to do something?

mompoet - lucky, lucky, lucky

Angels at Sunday School

On Sunday morning I'm planning to take my Sunday Church School class outside to watch the annual motorcycle toy run. Every year about this time, hundreds of motorcycle riders collect money and toys and go for a ride from Coquitlam Centre, along the Barnet/Lougheed Highway, through downtown Port Moody and Burnaby, out to the PNE. For as long as I've attended St. Andrew's United Church it has been a tradition for the Sunday School teachers and kids to stand out in front of the church and wave at the bikers. We hold signs that spell out, "St. Andrew's Sunday Church School says Jesus loves bikers."

Reading this morning's article in the Sun about the local Hell's Angels chapters and their ongoing conflict with local police, I wonder about the implications of taking the kids outside to watch the parade. Are we buying in to a warm fuzzy PR effort to polish the image of organized criminals? Or are we saying, "Love everyone like Jesus does." Or does it work out to be some of each?

Not all of the bikers are Hell's Angels, although more than half appear to be. Most of my 9-11 year olds probably haven't heard of the Hell's Angels, or if they have, they don't know much about who they are or about the ongoing controversy: violent organized criminals vs. unjustly persecuted motorcycle enthusiasts.

I think the answer is to enjoy the parade, but also talk to the kids and find out what they know and how they feel about the issue. The Sunday School curriculum that we work with is based on questioning and discussion, and encouraging the children to think independently. There are no answers in my teacher resource book, only lots of questions and ideas for guiding the children to deepen their thinking and make personal connection to issues of morality, social responsibility and truth, in the light of a liberal Christian theology. As a new Christian (3 years in November) and rookie Sunday School teacher, I'm learning right along with them how to connect all of this together.

I'll check in with the minister and Sunday School coordinator too. Their experience and wisdom will help me with this one. In the meantime, I'll count myself lucky to be working with these kids, who remind me to stop and think about things more than if I was deciding only for myself.

Question: Any thoughts?

mompoet - believing in angels all over the place

Not an Urban Myth After All

I read what sounded like a very silly story in this morning's Vancouver Sun (There's Cocaine in your wallet, probably by Chad Skelton, Oct. 2 Vancouver Sun p. C4). I looked it up on the Urban Legends website and found out that it is true. Most $20 bills have traces of cocaine stuck to them. You have to read it to believe it. The Sun website is now locked up tight to all but daily subscribers, but there's more detail on the Urban Legends page anyway (although the latter's content is American). Read it and snort.

Life is more complicated than we could ever imagine.

Question: Could my habitual sobriety be directly proportional to my continued insolvency?

mompoet - straight from the suburbs after paying for karate, musical theatre, private voice and a couple of field trips already!