Monday, February 25, 2008

I wish I was there

This is a wondrous video of a very cool event.

question: did you see it?

mompoet - wish I did, grateful for the video

Saturday, February 23, 2008

silly lunch

Last November, Louise, Lorri and I were having lunch and laughing our heads off. We seem to do this whenever we get together. We talked about how nourishing it is to be with people who prompt you to be loose and silly and ridiculous. We decided to share this experience with some of our, er, susceptible friends.

On Thursday we had our SILLY LUNCH. Here are some pictures.

We began by assuming silly names. These were drawn from 2 official envelopes ("Door #1" and "Edward") and recorded on nametags so we would not forget who we were.

Gronk Honeytrumpet brought her friend, Chongo 9.12. Chongo 9.12 travels by balloon to Abbotsford everyday with her sisters, Chongo 9.1 and Chongo 9, to collect gas. The gas is stored in secret facilities around the lower mainland. (Remember my post last week about the emergency callout? Unconfirmed reports indicate that the Chongos may have played some part in the evacuation of 500 households last week in Burnaby. But mostly the Chongos are very careful with gas.)

Hermintrude Callawallawalla brought silly toys from the dollar store, including light-up handclappers for budget preparation, giggle bags and a whoopie cushion.

Dame Fishwiggle looked like a rock star. Pitty-potato Galumpy Handsworth took time off school to attend the lunch. Porcupina Bumphrey the 3rd brought a newsletter from a school that will not be named that told about donor plagues being placed in several library books. This was particularly piquant due to Porcupina's preoccupation with bacteria. Mr. Jangles St. Vinnywhistle vowed to drive back to the office in the car with her very strange eyewear. And me, Petunia Goosey-lips, merrily blurted everyone's secrets golly-plopwaggle all over the table.

All non-silly conversation was nipped in the bud. Everyone had to address their friends by their new silly names, but we did forget. The penalty for this was to stand up and clearly introduce all of the friends around the table by their silly names, and propose a toast. Then sit down on the whoopie cushion.

The other people at the restaurant must have wondered what we were. But we didn't care. We had fun being silly. We will do it again soon.

question: how silly are you?

mompoet - silly is good

how to take care of your baby

Dooce posted a link to this site. Follow the instructions carefully.

question: none right now, the pictures answered every one that I have

mompoet - mom first

Thursday, February 21, 2008

the shelter

I volunteered this week at the temporary homeless shelter that our church is hosting. I was there on Wednesday and Thursday morning, from 6 - 8am. I was surprised when I arrived Wednesday morning, to find the parking lot filled with cars. Surely there couldn't be that many people at the shelter at this time? It turns out that the Korean congregation that shares our church holds a service of worship every morning at 5:45am. That's something I did not know.

At 6am, at the shelter, our guests are just waking up. My job, along with 4 other volunteers, is to help serve breakfast, distribute bag lunches and put away beds and clean the church after the guests have left for the day. I felt curious, and nervous and worried that I wouldn't know what to say or do. How would these people feel, who had spent the night in our church? How could I be with them in a way that would convey my respect for them, and help them feel really welcome and appreciated? Would they be embarrassed? discouraged? fearful? Would I? Well, yes to all of that. But it turned out to be more like any other social meeting situation with people I don't know than I ever could have imagined.

So we got breakfast served. Some of the conversation was easy, "how are you?" "did you sleep okay?" "Would you like sausages?" "More juice?" was all easy. What was less comfortable was, "May I share this table with you?" "Hi, my name is Sue." It felt awkward. Luckily, some of our guests were willing to talk - ordinary small talk about favourite breakfast foods, and serious conversation about life without a fixed address. Mostly, we tried our best, on both sides, I think, to bridge some of that divide between us with the cars and houses, and them with the knapsacks, tents and tired faces. We are all people living in the same world, separated by fate, luck, circumstances. This chance to share a bit of our extra with those who can use it, even temporarily, is an opportunity to understand one another better, and to know ourselves in a new way.

We're not evangelizing at the shelter. Tim, our minister, says that Jesus just fed people a lot of the time. That's all. Shelter time is an expression of our faith in action. That's enough. I am thankful every day for this opportunity. My spirit is nourished without an out-loud prayer or an organized lesson. Helping at the shelter is an experience of faith and love beyond any that can be read or told or memorized.

After our guests left, I breathed out a big breath of gratitude and relief. This is going to be good. It will go by too quickly. I hope that I'll gain from it as much as I can, and also that I'll give to it just the same. I tiptoed upstairs to the church office, behind the sanctuary. It was 7am. The Korean service was still underway. I could see that the light was dim - probably just a few candles. Two voices sang a sad and loving song in a language I did not understand. The voices wove around each other, rising and falling, on and on. I couldn't know what they were saying but I felt a yearning and a reverence in their song, like reaching for something that you can only pray you'll find.

I stood in the stillness and listened.

This has been a time of new discoveries. I am blessed.

question: did you ever do something that made you feel things in a different way?

mompoet - finder of treasures in unexpected places

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the moon

At 6:30 I was driving east to pick Fi up from rehearsal. The moon appeared from behind bands of cloud. I watched as the curved shadow of the earth moved across the moon's bright face. The moon seemed to take up the whole of the sky in front of me. When a cloud ribbon obscured it for a minute or two, I kept glancing at the spot where I knew it was, until it reappeared.

At 6:45, the doors of the rehearsal space opened and performers streamed out. Most didn't notice but one or two stopped to look. Soon everyone was saying, "Look! The moon! Eclipse!" There it was again, a slim fingernail-clipping of a thing, just above the trees.

Driving up the hill the moon played hide and seek as we turned and twisted higher and higher. Fi and her friend sang silly songs as I gasped at glimpses of the fully-shrouded disc hanging low in the sky.

Back at the bottom we stopped at the drugstore. Teenage boys stood in a cluster at the strip mall, pointing, as the moon poked its pale orangey-brown face from behind an apartment tower. Shoppers stopped to talk to each other and point the way, "It's just there, beside the middle floor, the one that's all lit up."

Back at home, outside the dining room window, the moon nestles in the branches of the alder tree, slowly restoring itself.

Now, some time past 9:00. It's full again. Next time, December 2010.

Question: If you stand on the moon at a lunar eclipse, do you see the earth traveling across the sun?

mompoet - closer to the sky than you think

Monday, February 18, 2008

random thoughts

  • I have never asked my husband to sleep on the couch. Not even once in almost 24 years of marriage, but when he has a bad cough he tiptoes downstairs to let me sleep. I hope that he feels better soon. I know that cough. It's the pits. He's the tops.
  • Driving in the car is one of the best ways to talk with a teenager. I almost missed my chance to make a mall-run with Fi on Sunday, but I was so glad I went. Driving to school once a week is good too. Nothing special or fancy, just a good chance to re-connect.
  • Filling out a college application online is light years away from the way I penned block caps into boxes and attached multiple copies of hard-got documents when I did it back when. Alex spent 30 minutes at the computer Sunday, and his application is in. Transcripts (almost) magically transport themselves from Ministry of Ed database to post-sec institution with his (electronic) approval.
  • Working together in groups is demanding and rewarding. I've logged dozens of meeting and phone hours in the past 2 weeks, at work and with my volunteer friends. We're getting lots done and strengthening bonds of trust and potential for future endeavours. Good stuff.
  • Cooking makes me feel good, no matter what.
  • I like taking the bus. It's cool to know the ride is there when I need it, and I don't have to haul a half ton of steel and rubber with me everywhere.
  • I am still spinning on a string, looking for how to reset routines and adapt skills at my new job, but I'm starting to recognize the landscape as I hurtle past it. I've got my eye on a landing spot. Coming down soon...
  • Nothing feels as good as knowing a friend is well, a family member is healing, people are blooming all around.
  • Life is delicious, even in speedy little bites.

question: what are your random thoughts today?

mompoet - dip-skippity-ploppling a long

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Yesterday at work I helped host my first big seniors' luncheon. It was a Chinese New Year celebration. A few volunteers did most of the planning, facilitated by my work partner. They planned the menu and ordered the food - about eight different dishes plus desserts. They bought decorations and organized door prizes. They booked entertainers and planned the program for the event. Hours of preparation went into it. When the day arrived, we came to work ready to work hard. We set up the room, put up the decorations, prepared a space for the entertainers to dress and wait, then just in time we were ready to welcome 108 guests. It was a big success. My favourite parts included the decorations, the meal (mmmmm), our own musicians and singers, and the seniors Chinese dancers from a neighbouring commmunity centre. Our member volunteers did the lion's share of running the event, while we ensured they had what they needed to make the afternoon go smoothly. It was a triumph of happiness and community spirit.

Last night at the church, our temporary homeless shelter opened. We are the 4th church out of five to take a turn at hosting this shelter, run by a local society that is working with a federal housing grant. Our rezoning approval came just in time (Tuesday night) and staff at the church and our volunteer coordinator (herself a volunteer) have mustered more than one hundred volunteers to work morning and evening shifts, sort donated clothing, prepare suppers, breakfasts and bag lunches and ensure that information is distributed to our neighbouring homes and businesses about what we are doing. I didn't work at the shelter last night, but I prayed for its success. Tonight, Alex will work the evening shift. I can't wait to hear from him how it went. I'll do early mornings (breakfast and cleanup) twice a week starting on Wednesday. The ladies in the 'hood are donating Wednesday's supper.

In life, there are many feasts that feed our hearts and souls in many ways. I am grateful for this abundance.

question: what is a feast for you?

mompoet - reflecting

Thursday, February 14, 2008

dear valentine

Dear Valentine,

I did not buy you flowers this year because of the sneezing and coughing and whining last year. I thought you would think chocolates are too cliche, so I planned a unique and personal valentine gift for you - something of me, made for you.

I decided to take a "love photograph" of myself for you, valentine, partly because I love you, and partly because you complain all the time about my flannel pajamas and bulky terrycloth robe and also about the sweatpants. I wanted you to see the romantic side of me...well, actually the romantic front of me. Well, some if not all of the romantic front of me.

I couldn't quite give up the chocolate part, valentine, so I designed a provocative and delicious pose including partial nudity and several strategically-placed Hershey's kisses. I thought I could maintain some modesty using the candies, and also leave something up to your imagination.

The way I imagined it, the photograph would be me, reclining on a rumpled, red, satin sheet, with nothing on, but some Hershey's kisses in the, um, bikini zones. I thought you would like that very much. I got everything I needed: the camera, the candies, a red sheet. But when I tried to set it up, I realised that I needed more candies than I thought, so I had to get dressed again and go back to WalMart for more, which made me kind of grumpy but I thought, "valentine's day is once a year so let's go for it."

By now, it was close to 3pm, and the kids would be home from school soon, so I hurried up and set things up again. The cat had curled up on the sheet and I had to shoo her off, then the sheet had cat fur on it, but I thought, that won't show up in the picture. I left the wrappers on the Hershey's kisses. I thought that way maybe you could eat them later. Also they wouldn't melt while I got the camera focussed and such.

Then I found out the real problem with this plan. The self-timer on the camera is 60 seconds, and 60 seconds is a very short time to run naked across the room, pose on a red sheet and get all of the Hershey's kisses in place to obtain a dignified pose and stay consistent with a valentine motif. The darn flash kept going off while I was still getting back in place or fumbling for the chocolates around the edges of the sheet. I was starting to sweat. I was also sneezing from the cat fur.

I tried again and again, each time with more speed, and less accuracy. There's one pretty interesting shot of me sliding off the sheet, onto the floor, with Hershey's kisses flying through the air. It's out of focus and kind of arty, but that's not what I was going for. I settled for glueing the kisses together onto triangles of red construction paper, into a kind of candy codpiece and bra, and sticking this to my skin with packing tape. I hoped the tape would be invisible in the photograph, but by now I would pretty much settle for just getting it done.

By the time the kids got home I was dressed, and had tossed the red sheet into the laundry. The kids and I took the camera and memory card down to Costco photo lab. I figured we'd be done and home before supper with a nice surprise for you. The thing is, at Costco I ran into the minister and his wife, waiting in line behind me while I viewed the pictures on the card reader and selected how many and what size enlargement. I thought I was having a hard time explaining to the kids what I was doing, but the minister? Good thing he and his wife were laughing too hard to say much. I paid for the prints and got home as fast as I could.

When I got home I made two discoveries.

1) I forgot to put the Hershey's kisses away. The dog ate all of them, and barfed chocolate with bits of red and silver foil all around the house.
2) In my rush to escape from Costco, I left the packet of prints and the enlargement on top of the car. It slid off somewhere. Maybe in the parking lot, maybe somewhere on the way home. Maybe someone found it. My Costco membership number is on the envelope so I'm sure they could track me down if they wanted to. I doubt they will.

I meant three discoveries.

3) I left the memory chip at Costco. I don't want to go back for it. In fact, I don't ever want to go back to Costco. Perhaps a new memory chip could be my Valentine's gift this year? (some memories you just don't want to hold onto)

Dear Valentine, I hope that you will accept this story in place of the "love photograph" I had planned, and that you will appreciate all of the trouble I went to for you, even though you will never see the results.

After I clean up the dog vomit, maybe we can call for pizza.

Happy Valentine's Day, with kisses.


ps - what would you think about looking for a new church?

thursday already


It's early Thursday morning, and the end of the week is in sight. It's Valentine's Day, and I'm expecting a quiet-ish evening after work. Andy has been home sick for the past couple of days and just only returned to work this morning, so he'll be tired tonight. The kids will be home and me too. I'll make a nice supper and maybe we'll watch a movie on DVD. We'll see.

At work, I have my first Seniors' Society Board meeting where I am the key staff person in attendance. I'm confident it will go well, but I'll be relieved once I get through it. The afternoon is a techno-mystery to me. I'll spend it in a "budget workshop." That means I will be in a room with computers with my co-workers and an Info Services specialist, inputting my 2008 budget to our new automated system. The deadline for completing my work is Monday, so I'm trusting that the info I have prepared already is good, and the process won't be too picky and time-consuming. All of the permanent staff positions are pre-set in the system, but more than half of my staffing is casual, so there will be work to be done, in a language with which I am not yet well-versed. At least I know I'll be in the same boat with everyone else, learning as we go.

Tomorrow the kids will be home from school for a pro-d day (teacher development). I usually take these off work, but it's the Chinese New Year Luncheon and I need to be there to help run the event. That will be a busy but fun day at work, and I think the kids are okay. I'll leave them my car.

This weekend is the Spagnol's sale. Spagnols sells wine-making equipment and supplies. Andy and I will avoid the big Spagnol's store, which will be a madhouse, and visit instead our local wine supply shop, Gerry's Vintner's. Roger there run's a parallel sale - much closer to home, just as cheap and not so crowded. Then I'll have lots of wine kits from which to make wine at home.

The weekend is unstructured, except for the church AGM Sunday afternoon. Our homeless shelter opens Friday night, but I won't be on duty as a volunteer until next Wednesday and Thursday early mornings. Alex will work Saturday night, so he'll be the first in for our family.

Sitting in my chair in the early morning, it looks like a good last stretch to the weekend. The sun will shine today, and all will be well in the world.

question: What does Thursday look like to you?

mompoet - doing okay

Monday, February 11, 2008

on standby

I was contemplating pajamas and a glass of red wine by 8pm tonight. A perfect end to a Monday full of Mondayness. Now I'm sipping green tea and staying dressed because I might have to go back in to work.

The recreation centre where I work is designated as a reception centre in case of an emergency. I'm one of the the city staffers trained to come out to help if I'm needed. Tonight, there's a gas leak in the neighbourhood and my boss just called to say maybe they'll need me. At a reception centre, people who are evacuated from their homes gather, get registered, and are provided with what they need to get through the next few minutes, hours or days. If people can't return to their homes, the Emergency Social Services program arranges hotel rooms and vouchers for meals, clothing, and other immediate needs. It's reassuring to know that the program is there, ready to kick in whatever happens. Most often it's a ...

Oh, there's my phone.

Gotta go. I'll tell more later. I'm called in.

question: I wonder what will happen? (this is my first call-in)

mompoet - going now

UPDATE - 10:20pm

By the time I got to the rec centre around 8:15pm, 500 homes were on the evacuation list. We had to be prepared for 1,000 people. As it turned out, not nearly that many showed up. Some people found other places to stay, or went out for supper to await further news. Those who came to the reception centre were made welcome in our gym and lobby areas. Some emergency volunteers and designated staff were on hand to help. We were able to provide an update: the gas had been shut off, and now workers were checking for any remaining pockets of gas, and venting manholes to ensure safety.

We were pretty sure everyone would go home that same evening, so we served coffee, ordered in pizza, made sure people had a place to rest and answered questions to the best of our knowledge. Had the evacuation gone later we would have stayed and made arrangements for hotels and meals, but by about 9pm, we received word that it was safe to go home. We thanked everyone for their patience, and said goodbye, then had a short de-brief meeting, cleaned up and went home.

My first call-out was low-stress and mostly about waiting and making people feel welcome, comfortable and reassured. Not so bad at all. I admire my boss and the other volunteers and staff with whom I worked. I can see how they (and I) could make a big difference in more serious circumstances.

Now to unwind, debrief a bit more with the family, and find those pajamas. Too late for the red wine, but there will be other nights.

question: have you ever seen an emergency reception shelter?

mompoet - If you ever did, I hope that things were okay for you, and that everyone got to go home soon.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

dark morning

Friday morning was heavy and dark. I took this photograph while I walked around the outside of the building where I work. The sky looked heavy with snow and the mostly bare trees were stark and beautiful.

If you know me already you know that I find winter to be a beautiful time. I like the shape of trees, I like skies painted in shades of grey. I like early darkness. There is depth, texture and infinite variation, with less distraction than I find during the other seasons. Things hold still in winter, and let me look at them.

question: which season do you find most beautiful?

mompoet - staring at tree branches

Thursday, February 07, 2008

come on in, y'all

Last night I had some sewing to do. I planned to come home from work right on time, cook and serve a quick supper, then huddle with my fabrics and sewing machine for 4 or 5 hours. I have a costume deadline for the weekend, and it's a busy week.

About 3pm, I was still at work, and I noticed it had begun to snow. By the time I left at 4:30, the snow had piled up at least an inch or so on the ground. It took me 45 minutes to make my usually 10 minute car trip home.

At home, the kitchen was stacked with cupcakes and cupcake-making paraphenalia. Fiona and her friend Kira were in the process of cooking up nine boxes of cake mix. In all they made over 200 cupcakes for a school bake sale. In the meantime, Kira's mom phoned from work. Both she and her husband work at the university, which is at the top of a small mountain. The snowstorm had closed driving access for an indefinite time. I told her that Kira could stay as long as needed, including overnight if they found themselves stranded.

Fortunately for our supper prospects, Andy was out on the porch, barbequeing in the snow. I helped set out condiments and veggies at one end of the crowded dining room table. Then the doorbell rang. Rhonda from next door had been stuck in the snow on her drive home. She and her boys, Bowen - 2 and Tristan - 4, had walked for about 1/2 hour in the snow, and left their house keys at the car. We found the copy of the key that they keep at our house and they went home.

A few minutes later, the doorbell rang again. Rhonda's husband Chris was late arriving home because of the snow, and Rhonda had an appointment. We took the boys, along with their supper, and Rhonda left.

Time for supper. I heated up chicken, veggies and rice in the microwave for Tristan and Bowen, while everyone else served up chicken and beef burgers from Andy's barbeque. They were yummy. The boys enjoyed a bit of ketchup on the side, and Bowen showed us the sign language gesture for "more."

After supper, we watched a bit of "Big Comfy Counch," read some Dr. Seuss, played Hungry Hungry Hippo, and made a box fort. Fi and Kira helped entertain the boys in between finishing batches of cupcakes. Andy snugged on the couch with Bowen, who likes Andy a lot. Alex brought the cat downstairs to be petted, then retreated upstairs with the cat for some peace and quiet.

Chris arrived around 7:45. Kira's parents made it down the hill by about 8:45. All was quiet by 9. Fiona even cleaned up the wall-to-wall cupcake making and burned me a CD from iTunes while she was doing it.

I still have sewing left to do, but I wouldn't have traded this whacky, funny evening for the world. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

question: have you changed your plans recently? Did you enjoy the diversion?

mompoet - just going with it

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

mailing my pajamas

I mailed my pajamas to Vancouver on Monday. Today or tomorrow, my friend Rhonda should receive them. I hope she wears them right away, or at least that same night.

It began about a week ago when Rhonda posted on her FaceBook status that she felt like wearing flannel, but did not own any. I posted on her wall that I would send her a pair of pajamas, and offered her the choice of red with snowmen or blue with penguins. It took a few messages back and forth to decide that we would really do this with real pajamas, and ended up with me mailing the pajamas. I have also started a mail my pajamas blog, and (I hope) a fun game of pajama travels.

I have asked Rhonda to enjoy the pajamas, and when she has finished with them to mail them to someone else. Along the way, I have requested emails and/or photos of the pajamas' progress, which I will post to the blog.

I miss the pajamas a little. They were among my favourites (I have many pajamas). It's exciting, however, to think about them being set free and having adventures, and making many different people comfy and cozy with their flannelness.

question: what's the most interesting thing that you ever sent in the mail?

mompoet - wearing the pink pajamas with kitty cats, with a brown sweater just now

Sunday, February 03, 2008

ready to cook

Saturday was Mom and Dad's 51st wedding anniversary. My niece Maya was in town, visiting during her semester break, staying with Grandma and Grandpa and hanging out with her cousins, Alex and Fiona.

We converged on Mom and Dad's house Saturday evening for a big lettuce wrap supper. Maya, Fiona, Mom and I chopped and chopped in preparation. Dad, Andy and Alex helped set the table and serve beverages. This photograph shows just some of the components of the lettuce wraps, prior to hitting the wok: red, yellow and orange bell peppers, onions, garlic, fresh ginger, zucchini, carrots and of course the lettuce leaves, ready to receive the crispy, spicy, steamy filling. Also present but not shown were green peppers and water chestnuts and sizzled vermicelli noodles for bedding.

The supper was yummy. A huge amount of lettuce wrap was consumed. It felt good to celebrate Maya's visit and Mom and Dad's anniversary with some family time together.

question: do you like to cook with loved ones?

mompoet - partying in the kitchen most of the time