Saturday, December 27, 2008
But as with anything tedious and troublesome, it has reached the point of absurdity that transforms it from distressing to hilariously outlandishly wonderfully weird. At least that's my spin on it.
We had a "third time's the charm" experience last night that had everything to do with driving places in the snow. The whole family is on vacation from work and school, and there's really no place we absolutely must go, but sometimes, something happens that makes you want to go anyway, despite the snow. Here are the three incidents and their silly culmination:
First time: December 21 was a night thick with snow. It had been snowing all day without cease. At least a foot of fresh snow lay on the ground. The plows and sanding trucks had been around, but they couldn't keep up. I had skipped church in the morning - it was already that snowy by 9am. Alex had called in to work to say he couldn't make it (we didn't want him to be stranded at midnight at the theatre). We had spent a homey day baking, napping and shoveling. But there was a benefit concert at a nearby church, put on by some of Fi's friends. They decided not to cancel and to go on with the show. They were raising funds for the Union Gospel Mission, and they thought even a small show was better than doing nothing. We couldn't stand to think of them playing to an empty house, so we went. Fiona and Andy and I drove out in the snow. We picked up two of Fiona's friends and we slogged and slid our way to the concert. We were glad to see about 50 other people make it, and everyone contributed generously, so $600 was raised. The show was great. We would have been sorry to miss it. And we made it home - just barely. Fi and the girls and I got out of the car and walked the last hill up to our house, while Andy churned and slithered the car up the slippery, snowy slope. We were home and safe, and glad we went out.
Second Time: Christmas Eve was another crazy snowy day. Seeing the blizzard coming, we had done our final grocery shopping for Christmas dinner the previous day. There was no reason to go out this day, except Christmas Eve service at our church. It was our minister's first Christmas Eve service with us, and her first as an ordained minister. We have never missed a Christmas Eve service, and the family was signed up to welcome people as they arrived. Fiona and I talked about walking, the roads were so bad for driving, but Andy convinced us that this plan was probably more difficult and dangerous than driving. He decided to give it a try. Dressed up in our church best, and packing snow boots, mittens and winter coats just in case we were stranded, we set out. We made it, arriving early at the church. Andy spun donuts in the parking lot. That was fun. Inside it was warm and bright. We welcomed about 25 people to the service. Usually the church is packed on Christmas Eve, but with the weather it was different. Only 2 members of the choir made it, so we could hear ourselves singing, which is always a little unnerving. But it felt very special to be there, and be part of something rare and intimate and just a little bit risky. The service was short, and we were safely home by 8pm. The road up the hill to our house was slippery again, but somehow Andy made it to the top, this time with all of us along for the ride. It was a Christmas Eve we will not forget.
The third time: Last night - Friday. Alex was scheduled to work. He didn't want to call in "snowed out" again. Andy agreed to drive him to work. In the meantime, Fi was at Metrotown shopping with friends when the skytrain stopped operating. Her friend's mom drove out to rescue them, and Andy stopped by the friend's house on the way back from dropping Alex off, to bring Fiona home. Andy, Fi and I had reservations for the panto at the Metro Theatre - way on the other side of Vancouver. We were reluctant to cancel. The weather had hit that show hard too, and we didn't want to let them down. But while Andy drove the kids through the still-falling thick, damp snow, he realised it would be too risky to drive all that way, especially with Alex waiting for us at the theatre in Coquitlam. Now totally unable to get up the hill to our house, Andy circled around and parked the car on the roadway above our neighbourhood. We cancelled our panto seats, and decided to go out to Alex's work and catch a movie, then drive home together when he finished work. The walk up to the neighbourhood above us in a tunnel of snow was mysterious and magical. It felt like an adventure. The snow was turning to rain as we drove to the theatre around 7:30, turning the deep accumulation even more heavy and even more slippery. We arrived at the theatre to find most people hadn't risked going out to a movie. The place was uncharacteristically quiet for a Friday night at Christmas vacation time. We checked in with Alex, bought our tickets for the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and settled in to enjoy the show, trying to put the snow and slippery roads out of our minds. Outside, heavy accumulations on tree tops were causing tree limbs to fall, in some cases onto power lines. Inside, just as the movie trailers finished, the power went out in the theatre. The emergency lights flashed on and then off, and a theatre employee with a dying flashlight came in to advise us to sit tight. If the lights came on soon, they would resume the show. If not, we would be evacuated in a safe and orderly manner, and issued passes to come to the movie another day. Inside the auditorium, a hundred cell phone and ipod screens lit up as people amused themselves in the dark. Someone with an impressive light source provided a hilarious shadow puppet show on the darkened theatre screen. Someone else with a laser pointer joined in, entertaining the crowd with an improvised, interactive display with the shadow puppet person. A few minutes later we were instructed to leave. As we were leaving, the electricity came back on, but it was too late to resume the show. We were informed that the theatre would close for 30 minutes, then re-open for the later round of movies. We decided to drive home. We hoped Alex would be let off early, but they needed him until 11, so Andy brought Fi and me home, then turned around to get Alex. The evening felt like a wash, and an exhausting one for Andy, the snow chauffeur, but again, we were all safe and sound. Andy parked the car up above again at 11:30pm. During the night the snow plow came, so this morning he had to dig it out. Later, he got a tow up our hill into the complex behind a neighbour's truck, then spent several hours clearing and salting the hill with a bunch of neighbours. They also had to cut away several tree limbs that had collapsed onto the road.
We hope that the third time is the charm, and that we will have no more impossible snow nights. I have promised myself that I will stay home even if something is happening that is hard to resist. Enough is enough, and we've had our three times out in the worst weather and road conditions. Now it is time for puddles and hard rain and no more snow. Too bad the weather report does not agree.
question: how have you been getting around in the snow?
mompoet - thinking a dogsled would be good about now
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I went outside mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve, to give a card and gift to our devoted grounds-keeper, Joe. He takes care of the townhouse complex we live in full-time, with some extra help in the summer. Lawns, walkways, garbage sheds, hedges, snow and ice - these are are looked after by Joe, as if our home is his own.
On Wednesday afternoon, Joe was shoveling the road up the hill, for at least the second time that day. He keeps it clear so the people who live on the upper road (my family included) can get their vehicles in and out safely and easily. I grabbed a shovel and offered my help. Then a couple of neighbours joined in. The snow was falling fast and thick as we shoveled, but in about 1 hour we had one nice wide lane cleared. We had to stop every time a car or truck went up or down the hill, so it took a bit longer that it would have otherwise. We felt great about our work, and grateful for the opportunity to help Joe.
Then the plow came by, and re-scraped our hand-scraped masterpiece. It was a bit of a let-down and also pretty funny. Joe decided he could go home then, and join his family for Christmas Eve and a few days off work.
question: do you know someone who takes special care of some thing or place for you?
mompoet - blessed
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The snow has brought us peace. It muffles sound, makes the world beautiful, and forces us to decide what it is we really have to do, and what can wait.
We got a few fruits and veggies at the store yesterday, and Andy bought the croissants for Christmas breakfast, and we put them in the freezer. There was some small objection to this procedure. Croissants are supposed to be purchased as close as possible to the time of eating. But I had a hunch we might not make it to any store anywhere on a snowy Christmas Eve day, and now I'm glad.
We'll stretch our hopes out now, and say a prayer for safe and swift travel for everyone who is trying to get to loved ones somewhere - either coming here or going elsewhere. Roads and airports all over the country are not working the way they are designed to work. Some people will probably be stranded and have to give up on being where they really want to be at Christmas.
Here at home, we want to be at church this evening for 7pm service. Luckily, if we need to, we can walk there - although it may mean we'll be greeting people and handing out candles wearing snow pants and hiking boots. But having a responsibility to work as greeters means we will go there, no matter what. I think we would, regardless.
Tomorrow, we want my parents to make it to our house in the afternoon to open stockings, and we want to go together to Andy's mom's place for Christmas supper. We're roasting and bringing the turkey, so again, it's very important that we make it. I can just picture us hiking down to the highway and getting on the bus with a roast turkey, all wrapped up in aluminum foil. Oh well, we'll do it if we have to.
Christmas will be - white or green - wherever we are or aren't. It will be Christmas.
question: what are your plans for Christmas? Are they coming through?
mompoet - going with the flow
Monday, December 22, 2008
question: have you seen Saturn
mompoet - thinking maybe at the Planetarium...
It's a novel about a man who has lost a lot of himself through childhood abuse and adult tragedy. In the midst of a long, sleepwalking sadness of a life, he receives a note in his mailbox from God, inviting him to spend a weekend at a place of terrible horror - the shack where his daughter was killed.
It's a splendid story about a man's conversation with God and his discovery of his own life and its meaning. I read it in small sips, and thought about each one, each one satisfying on its own, encouraging and affirming as part of a bigger picture. This is a story about transformation, redemption and love to an infinite and barely understandable breadth and level.
I recommend it.
question: what are you reading today?
mompoet - snowy days are good for looking inward and reaching outward
Sunday, December 21, 2008
a lawn that does not see sun for 4 weeks
even on the brightest days
frost grows thick on the grass
a prehistoric forest of miniature proportion
criss-crossed by boot paths
lines of intention
lines of desire
down the street there's
the big drug mart
with 11 different choices of toblerone bars
from 12.4 grams minis
to a 4.5 kilogram mega (for display only)
some are on special
one is free
with the purchase of 2
terry's chocolate oranges
would it be christmas without them?
when it reaches minus 4 outside
trinity church opens its doors
welcoming the overflow of lost souls
to stay the night
enjoy a warm meal - no prayers attached
there are shoes and hats and gloves
scarves knitted by the ladies fellowship
breakfast and a warm good-bye at 7
a long, cold day ahead
the longest night is electric with celebration
stretched with the tension of intention
pondering questions as old
as stories can remember
in the morning the church rings
with glad songs
the 4th candle of advent is lit
people are alive everywhere
desiring nothing but love
waiting to feel the sun
question: do you feel the sun?
mompoet - all wrapped up in advent and solstice and many questions about the world
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Dump Cake (from Highland County 4-H Centennial Celebration - Published in 2002 by the Highland County 4-H Club of Hillsboro, Ohio)
1 white cake mix (I used yellow)
1 21oz can cherry pie filling
1 20oz can crushed pineapple - undrained
1 cup pecan pieces (I used halves)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter - cut into pieces
Spread undrained pineapple in a glass 9X13 inch pan (I buttered the pan first). Spoon in pie filling evenly over pineapple. Dump dry cake mix onto the cherry layer evenly. Spread butter slices on top. Sprinkle pecan pieces on top of the butter. Bake at 350 about 45 minutes or until golden brown.
9X13 is 9X13 (we Canadians still bake imperial)
pineapple - comes in 190z cans in Canada
cherry pie filling - ditto
350 is fahrenheit of course
delicious is the same on both sides of the border - believe me, this is delicious
question: have you ever had a recipe published in a community cookbook (school, church, service club etc)?
mompoet - wondering if "strawberry pretzel salad" is good
Friday, December 19, 2008
It's been a bit of a whirl that last week or so, with getting ready to be away from the office, preparation for the holidays. I'll try to catch up in the next few days' posts, but here's a quick list of what's been up.
- At work: Christmas Lunch with the Board of the Seniors' Society and a potluck going-away for a dear co-worker who is retiring and moving to the Sunshine Coast, and Christmas lunch with my co-workers from my regular job in community. I miss them.
- Also at work: I got the news that I will stay at the seniors' centre for one more year - returning to my regular job in 2010. I look forward to actually being good at my job in the coming year, now that I have learned it. I will also look forward to a delayed reunion with my old co-workers, and resolve to see them more frequently in the coming year.
- Also at work: putting together gifts and food for our Christmas family. I'll help deliver the packages today.
- Also at work: the departmental Christmas meeting - a big get-together of as many people as we can fit into the pavilion at Deer Lake - and an update from our new director on priorities for the coming year. He mentioned the seniors programs at the rec centre where I work when he gave examples of "connection to purpose." The recognition felt great.
- Snow - after last Friday's bit of snow, we got the full meal deal on Tuesday evening. It began in Port Moody around 9:30 or 10, moving in a general westward direction. By midnight we had a couple of inches on the ground, and more fell overnight. It has stayed cold, so nothing has melted. It's beautiful outside and the roads are clear, so all is good.
- RC Christmas Special at Cafe Deux Soleils. I have been trying to get to this for about 3 years, and I finally made it! It was a great night of holiday fun and poking fun, with some surprise tender spots, all organized by RC Weslowski of Van Slam fame. The event raised funds for the AIDS Vancouver foodbank. I was delighted to see the Mighty Mike McGee's new puppet act. Watch for it. You will laugh and cry and you might get hugged by a puppet.
- Movies - Milk and Slumdog Millionaire so far. I am planning to join Alex for his ambitious "movie marathon day" after Christmas (a whole day from opening to closing in the mega-plex where he works, watching one movie after another).
- The Drowsy Chaperone at the Playhouse Theatre - a frothy, goofy romp of a musical that pokes fun at musical theatre.
- Lunch at Lalibella Ethiopian Restaurant in Burnaby - friendly and warm and delicious family-style injera platter shared and eaten by hand, scooping fillings up on lovely spongey bread.
- Bottling wine like a mad-woman into the middle of the night so I could take bottles to work the next day to give to friends. We are now also stocked up for the holidays. I bulk age my wine, so I had 10 gallons of ready-to-drink just sitting there smiling at me from 2 big carboys. Now it's in bottles, with pretty labels, ready to be enjoyed.
- Preparing for Myrna's Tacky Christmas party - also an AIDS food bank fundraiser, coincidentally. We'll see the carol ships come up the inlet, and share a potluck meal. I am trying for the best costume prize in my cat lady Christmas outfit. (photos to follow)
- Buying 2 Christmas trees. The first one came home, was unfurled and revealed itself to be an um, er, "distressed" tree. It is now our "outside" tree, planted in a pile of snow in the garden. In the meantime, we got tree number 2 for $20 at Rona (the local hardware store), and it's lovely and all decorated, and inside the house.
- Reading - I'm reading The Shack by Wm Paul Young. It's kind of like Sophie's World but theological and much more of a single narrative - less of a survey. Very satisfying so far.
- Experimenting with treatments for our old dog and coping with the snow, which makes it harder for her to get around. Her back legs are getting weaker and it looks like she has some kind of spinal complication of old age. She's been stumbling a lot but gets up and keeps going. We have had her x-rayed, and now she's on holistic nutritional supplements, pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories and she's gone for her first chiropractor appointment. We're conscious now that she's in her senior years, and we want to make sure she's not in pain, and able to manage our multi-level many-staired home and neighbourhood as happily as she can, for as long as she can. Last night, Fiona and I bought her snow boots to keep her paws warm in the snow and give her traction.
- Publishing the ninth Shoreline Writers' Society Chapbook. This one's called "Imagine No Heaven." It's gorgeous. If you see me, ask me, and I will give you a copy.
- Getting ready for the Shoreline Seasonal Celebration. I have to write a poem of two for the Poet-Tree, our anonymous, potluck, poetry reading. Each person picks a poem from the tree and reads it aloud. It is good fun.
- Going to church - I have signed up to greet all this month, so I arrive early and welcome friends, meet and welcome newcomers and give hugs and share laughs and check-ins as people arrive. This is a task that I find awesomely enjoyable. Sometimes volunteering is a gift to the giver. We'll attend the Christmas Eve family service on Wednesday evening. The church is usually packed with families - all of our regulars, plus all of the neighbours. We finish with a candle-light singing of Silent Night - beautiful and joyous.
- Walking, photographing, writing. Now that there's more time I can look and listen. My journal is brimming with stuff I will now go back to and tease out to something interesting. My camera is with me all the time. The world is here. I am here. I am love and creativity, so the outcome is inevitable.
question: whatcha doin?
mompoet - ready to listen
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Here are some photos from last week's grad ceremony. I had gone to bed the night before feeling very sick, but after 10 hours sleep I woke up in much better shape. In the first photo, I do not have a headache, I'm just making a dramatic point while I recite the poem.
question: did anyone give you a certificate recently?
mompoet - glad to have been part of this experience with a great group of people
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
These are taken at my friend Darlene's place. She got more snow than we did. It's below freezing everywhere, and about -16C with the windchill. Winter has sneaked up on us.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Each student had to make a short presentation. There were speeches and power point presentations and even a rock song singalong. I wrote and performed this spoken word piece:
Just Show Up – a poem about dread
for my friends in the graduating class of
Leading from the Front Line 2008 – City of Burnaby
People ask me if I like my job.
I always say, “YES.”
Most days, that’s the truth.
But some days….uhhhh, not so much.
Even fewer days – rare but real – I like it not at all.
Because, some day’s there’s dread.
The kind of dread that squishes my head
makes me see red
tells me, “Don’t even put one baby toe out of bed,”
Sometimes, when I’m lying there, paralyzed,
I ask myself, “Why am I feeling dread today?”
And I think I’ve narrowed it down to two things:
1) the pile
2) the people
Let’s talk about the pile.
It begins with, “I’ll get to that tomorrow.”
Then I add “When you have some time…”
Throw in a few layers of “sort this out later”
Pretty soon, it’s a tilting tower of unmet obligations
A guilt-inducing commitment list
The product of my paralyzing procrastination.
There’s not a hope in Honolulu I will get all of that work cleared away.
I am overwhelmed with dread.
I try to sort, purge, assign, containerize (forget about equalize!)
All I get is a bigger mess
Spread out more thinly all over my desk.
I tell myself, “It’s because of the yellow.
With barely a drop of blue strength or preference,
I am not a detail person
I am not equipped to conquer this pile of individual tasks.”
So I sit, stare at the wall
PICTURE A CAT
as the pile grows higher and higher and higher…
Then, there are the people.
Everyone says I’m great with people.
Most days I feel that way about myself.
I’m so together, I’m balancing on the Apex of Maslow’s hierarchy.
But there are days when I feel like
I just took the express elevator all the way down
And I’m crouched in the basement, barely functioning.
You see, people are great when they agree with me
and behave in ways that serve me well.
But some days – most day – there’s conflict
recurring issues that refuse to be fixed,
the friction that erupts between alternating personalities.
And while it’s not like I need Meyers Briggs to tell me
I like to live out loud while
You like to think things over
And we just need to appreciate each other, and get along
Sometimes I feel
like I’m spending my days herding gremlins through hula hoops
and for that, I feel dread.
I remind myself to
seek first to understand.
I try my best to achieve level four listening
heck, I’d settle for level 3.5.
But in my panicked state, I discover
my intuition and compassion have flown the coop
and I’m left with a sorely misaligned form
of D4 feedback that goes like this:
Don’t you understand?
Do what I’m telling you NOW!
Some days, I want to be anywhere but work.
So I picture myself in a make-your-own-adventure story.
I’m in the basket of a big, old fashioned hot air balloon.
I expel all of this dread.
It fills up the bag and I rise.
I drift at a leisurely pace
over the Whine River Valley
past the Sea of Discouragement.
from far above the land mass
I can see the white space on the organizational chart.
Up, where the air is clear, I find myself clearing.
Down on earth, I may be stuck in a rut
but up here I am not married to the misery.
While I may not be ready to develop
a whole new relationship with failure
I know for sure
when the going gets tough
the same thing that didn’t work yesterday
is pretty sure not to work again today.
I convince myself to bottom-line my own story
and just show up.
I begin with the pile
I sort again, and find
that most of what’s in it can be
discarded, delegated or dealt with before break time tomorrow.
I jot down a list of things to do.
Suddenly, they’re doable.
Just show up, and not matter how much or little I get done
it breaks the dread.
Now the people…
Even when I’m feeling dread
I take the first step and just show up
I optimize my curiosity
allow myself to be a cautious tryer
and go looking for clues in what the people
are saying, and how they behave
if the answer is anywhere, that’s where I’ll find it.
I remind myself, in the face of adversity
that I have the most to learn from the people who see
things from an opposite perspective.
Then there are the wonderful people
on this same path with me
I never feel dread about you guys.
You always show up
with help and support.
We’ve taken this journey together.
While the instructors have been excellent
I have learned the most from you.
You are my teachers, my mentors, my friends.
Together, we reflect and magnify the positive
filling in the blank spots in each others’ mirrors.
If I’m guilty of halo error
I think it’s because now I have 20 guardian angels
all showing up too.
And the dread?
I know I can call on any of you, any time.
I’ll bring my dread, you bring yours too.
We’ll take them out for a gallop around the pond
watch them run
laugh at their antics and let them go.
People ask me if I like my job.
I tell them I love it.
Sure there are days.
There will always be dread.
But I know, no matter what, I am equipped and supported
Just show up, with a focused mind and a willing heart
Sometimes I’m stopped in my tracks
But most times things go pretty well
The pile is a pile – it will grow and shrink but it doesn’t define me
The people are people, the reason I’m here
On bad days, it’s actually pretty funny
On good days, there is joy
And I remember again why I love my job.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Alex and I saw a matinee screening of Milk today, in a downtown theatre because it is not yet playing at the suburban screens in our neighbourhood. We were both moved and impressed by the film. Alex "paid" for the tickets. He can get a free pass anytime, for himself and a guest, for any Cineplex theatre. I got the popcorn and drinks. We took transit, and managed to squeek in just before and out just after the Santa Claus parade.
When we got home, Alex had about 35 minutes to eat and change clothes before he had to leave for work - the evening shift at the local movie theatre. I whipped up the best I could for him in a short time, with the ingredients on hand (sadly, no leftovers available): a grilled cheese sandwich and apple slices, and a glass of milk. The sandwich was pretty good, I think, with whole grain bread and real cheddar. He said it was "fine."
Then Fiona noticed I was defrosting something in the microwave and asked what I was making for the rest of us. Alex interjected, "I don't know, but it's probably better than a grilled cheese sandwich."
So there you go.
Alex will be home around 11:30. There's pasta with tomato sauce and Italian sausages in the fridge for him to reheat. He'll probably be hungry.
question: did you ever find out somebody didn't like something as much as you thought they did?
mompoet - doing my best on a budget and a time limit
Thursday, December 04, 2008
and now a break from the world going to hell in a handbasket - justified tooth friendly chocolate and chocolate Jesus
Chocolate Jesus (take 1)
Chocolate Jesus (take 2)
question: what do you make of all this?
mompoet - wondering at the line between satire and misguided earnest reality
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
I talk with friends on a Monday evening. The world is speeding by, and many who we love are far away. Here, tonight, we are together. I laugh and sprawl on the couch, my feet tucked into fuzzy new birthday slippers. In the city, people huddle in doorways, their old shoes wet from the street. Sometimes they laugh, but it is not the same.
The week after the shelter closes, I wake an hour early on my accustomed morning, still ready to help.
I could pour my heart into acts of kindness every morning, and still not make a dent in this. All of the gratitutde I feel for my comfort and security does not change a thing. Still, I wake, and think on it. I pray and work and give and appreciate. Feet tucked into fuzzy slippers, I try to sort it out.
Sometimes, the gap between this world of couch and candles and that world of damp shoes and doorways seems hopelessly vast. Some days, I think it's barely there: a stroke of fate, a whim of random placement, a handspan bridged by love.
And so I I wake and work and think and pray, here in this house in the days before winter.
question: how do you see the gap?
mompoet - up early, and warm