Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Having completed the taxes, I turned off my left brain, and worked on a poem, written to a prompt, provided by lovely RC, facilitator of the Friday writing group that I attend. This may not be the poem that I share at the meeting. I have written a number of poems since receiving the prompt, and the thought may evolve to something different by Friday. Anyway, here it comes, right at you, from my right brain:
Sky Whale Breaks up with Elroy Jetsam
your kisses, like woodpecker bites
your crazy, upside-down smile
your fold-up gangle
rotten banana peel - suspended
how I fell for you, I'll never know
when we met, I offered my hand in friendship
you extracted a DNA sample
I opened to your embrace, raised my face to yours
and found you tangled in my hair
red eyes gleaming
"let's take it slow," I said, "just talk"
I wasn't ready for your gift of echo-location
pinning me to the spot in every conversation
"I know where you're coming from," you'd say
I wish you didn't
now your claws grip deep into my insulation
I can't extract myself from this embrace
sure, it's flattering
you flattening yourself this way
whispering, "you drive me batty" close against my face
fact is, you creep me out
who needs a freaky, flying flesh-rat
when I have astronauts crawling up my ass?
I'm going to take off
conjure lightning from the sky
blow this guano heap
cling if you will
call me hard-hearted
I'm going where only titanium survives
you and your bones and pulse and breath
will feel the rush of acceleration (mine)
the searing scrape of disintegration (yours)
you will fall from the sky
lost in the jetsam of
another perfect liftoff
watch the ocean rush up fast
no dead-stick landing for you
you're all ash and regret before I can even say it
still, in orbit, when the light's just right
I'll tell the guys I miss your smile
question: been there?
mompoet - glad to get that out!
Julie, our minister, gave us the suggestion of the themes of expectation and identity for the reflection (or sermon) part of the service. Cindy and I agreed to focus on the expectations of the people, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and to tie the scripture story in with our own stories of changing roles, identity and expectation. Cindy will describe leaving her work as a trial lawyer to become a full-time mom (she has Emma, 3, and baby Xander). I will describe the experience of returning to work after staying home with the children for a few years. This is my story:
After Fiona was born, I quit my outside-the-home job and stayed at home. To help support the family financially, I opened a licensed family day care in our home. For five years, my world was our house, the family, the neighbourhood and my client families.
As Fiona neared the age to start school, Andrew and I decided together that it was time for me to transition back to work outside of the home. I put out feelers at my old place of employment, and was stunned to receive an offer of full time work within weeks of my inquiry. Within a couple of months, I closed my daycare, found out-of-school care for Alex and Fiona and returned to the same workplace that I had left 5 years earlier. It was almost like I had never left. But in some ways it seemed overwhelmingly different.
Every morning, I rode the bus and the skytrain to work. Getting off the skytrain at Metrotown was a shock. I was faced with a sea of people. Waves of strangers moved in every direction all around me. I felt insignificant and vulnerable.
At the office I enjoyed some of the things that go with work: wearing nice clothes, having a coffee break, getting a paycheque and paid vacation… but I quickly realized that my confidence wasn’t the same as when I left 5 years before. I told my boss I felt like Rip Van Winkle, awakening to a world that looked somewhat the same, but was really more different than I could have imagined. I had lost touch with many of my co-workers. Like mine, their lives had changed. Some parts of my job were exactly the same, others perplexingly different. The simplest things had me flummoxed – How does the new telephone system work? What’s with this new photocopier machine? Who moved the front door to the admin office around to what was once the back? Can I speak in a meeting or over coffee without slipping into mommy-talk?
I realized that more than anything, I had changed. My cares and concerns, my wisdom, strengths and weaknesses had rearranged themselves during the time I had been away. As out of touch as I felt, I realised that my co-workers must be going through the same experience with me. Who is this mompoet, who has come back after being away for so long?
It wasn’t as simple as changing jobs, from stay at home mom and daycare-giver to professional office person. Suddenly, I was both. I had to be a whole new configuration of someone. I had to figure out who that would be.
With the loving support of family and friends, and the kindness of co-workers (some of who also spoke mommy-talk from time to time), I found my feet and discovered ways to be a new someone but still the same me. I got used to interacting with one hundred people each day (instead of a dozen - max) and being part of a crowd of 1000 when on the bus and skytrain. I figured out how to change gears and be the mom, wife and neighbor when I came home every afternoon. It all happened so fast, it’s hard to even know what I expected, but I do know that the experience was intense and profound.
A year later, I looked back on it as a major accomplishment. Eleven years later, I wonder at my energy and the faith I found within myself to make it through the change. Today, when I see a young mom getting off the skytrain, heading to work, I make sure to smile a special smile for her. Just me, remembering, and saying, “Hey, whoever you want yourself to be, you’re on your way. It’s going to be all right.”
question: what are your big changes? how did they affect your identity and expectations?
mompoet - changing and growing, all the time
Monday, March 30, 2009
We arrived a bit early, and were welcomed into a beautiful studio - warm, bright and with a circle of pillows on the floor. We sat and greeted other participants as they arrived. By the time the class began, there were about 35 people in the room.
Farah, who leads the laughter yoga club, introduced a new leader, Jeannie, who she called a "natural from the first time I met her." Jeannie had freckles and a broad grin. She welcomed us, then led us through a series of exercises for smiling, breathing and laughing. We worked in a big circle, and also moving around the room, encountering other class members and doing things that made us laugh (zippering open a smile from a serious face, talking in gibberish, giving extravagant compliments). In between exercises we repeated a mantra (ha-ha-ho-ho-ho with clapping and a big YAYYYY! at the end) and congratulated each other on excellent work with "Very GOOD" and namaste bows and more "YAAAAYYYY!" A room full of strangers blossomed into a gathering of goofy-guts friendly people in minutes. A couple of people seemed a bit more reserved than the others, but everyone got into it and shared laughter. The best part was at the end. We all lay down on the floor with our heads in the middle and our feet out toward the walls, and we laughed. Jeannie didn't have to get us started, we just laughed and laughed for probably 15 minutes. It tooks us a while to finish laughing and conclude the class.
We did a check in around the circle before leaving. People felt lighter, energized, optimistic about positive energy in the world, grateful. Louise and I floated out the door. My face hurt. Her belly hurt. Neither of us had ever laughed that much. We want to go back and do it some more.
question: what makes you laugh?
mompoet - I am a good laugher, but this was above and beyond all previous experience
Sunday, March 29, 2009
From 8:30 to 9:30 we turned our most optional electrical things off (TV, computers, stove, microwave, lights). The fridge and freezer stayed on, and the furnace kept us cozy and warm (it's gas with electric thermostat and ignition). We lit candles and played "YUM." It was a lightweight way to perk up our awareness of how much we take for granted the seemingly limitless supply of cheap energy that's available to us. It also reminded us how distracting the electronic stuff is. When is the last time we played a board game together on a Saturday night?
question: how did you observe earth hour?
mompoet - pass the dice!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
So on Saturday, we'll join the Grand March for Housing. It's not just a Vancouver problem, but being part of a very visible awareness event in Vancouver will help draw attention and perhaps sway popular and political will.
Other things we discussed/learned/thought about that ordinary people can do about homelessness (some pointed out to us by the film and panelists, others we talked about or already practice in our lives):
- Get to know a homeless person in your work or home neighbourhood. Learn your neighbour's name and give that person recognition/consideration/respect like anyone else in the neighbourhood.
- Help others understand that homeless people aren't homeless because of some fault or failure of their own (and conversely that we aren't comfortable and safe because we are especially virtuous or deserving). Talk about issues of homelessness with friends and family, and challenge false statements made by others.
- Teach your kids to be generous to people who look and act differently from themselves. Do this by modeling the behaviour yourself talking together about it.
- Volunteer with an organization that helps address issues of homelessness - work at a shelter, collect food or clothing, raise funds, write letters.
- Talk to your MP, MLA and civic politicians and ask them to stop shrugging off the housing problem as "not our jurisdiction." That's getting old. Encourage cooperative efforts. Work on the problem now, and worry about whose job it is later.
- Direct some of your charity giving to organizations that address this issues of help for the homeless and creation of affordable housing.
- Elect governments that care for people, all people.
- Make art that speaks to themes of inclusion, compassion and kindness to all people.
- Give recognition and support to leaders, businesses, organizations and families who practice generous and compassionate ways towards homeless people and the issues of housing.
- Have compassion for those whose hearts and minds are closed to these issues, and keep bugging them (gently) to understand the problem better.
- Challenge NIMBYism (not in my back yard). This problem is everywhere, and belongs to everyone. It needs to be addressed locally and personally, and not passed on to other neighburhoods.
mompoet - YIOBY (yes, in our back yard)
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
This month, my co-worker Belinda ordered us to cook "childhood favourites." This prompted a lot of email banter about Kraft Dinner. Strangely nobody actually brought Kraft Dinner. Fiona told me I should bring olives, because olives truly were one of my first favourite foods. Instead, I brought tuna melts, looking for something more universally accepted as a childhood favourite. The rest of our menu included perogies, scallopped potatoes, celery sticks with cheese whiz, celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins, cinnamon buns, chocolate chip cookies, egg salad sandwiches, pizza (that's from Adriana, who grew up with a fabulous Italian cook for a mom, but craved the Canadian food at her neighbour's house) and rice krispie squares. To drink, we had apricot nectar and chocolate milk. It was really yummy. As we ate, we reminisced about favourite candies and cereals and the foods that we wanted our parents to buy or cook but they refused to give us. Those of us with kids agreed that we are all pretty much as hard-nosed or easy-going as our parents were, when it comes to deciding what we'll give our kids to eat. We also all agreed (except for Adriana) that powdered milk tastes horrible. Adriana loved it because her neighbour's mom served it.
After lunch we had our staff meeting. About 30 minutes in, the yawning began. At the one hour mark, we were slurring our words and getting confused. At about 70 minutes the giggling began. Clearly, childhood favourites are not brain food. Perhaps our parents fed them to us to sedate us so we were not so difficult to look after? hmmmm
question: what was your childhood favourite food?
mompoet - olives are good and they do not make you sleepy
Sunday, March 22, 2009
At the dentist's office, they have all of the latest magazines to read while you wait - Time, Newsweek, People, Sports Illustrated, McLean's, and today's newspaper. At the doctor's office there is a bulletin about chicken pox vaccination on the wall, beside a list of the symptoms of diabetes.
At the dentist's office, you check yourself in on a computer screen, then sit in a comfortable chair for a maximum of 10 minutes before being greeted in the waiting area by a hygienist, who escorts you to your chair and immediately commences your treatment. At the doctor's office, you line up for your turn to check in with a distracted receptionist, perch on a Naugahyde stacking chair from the 1970s, squeezed in next to someone who is coughing continuously. You wait for 30-97 minutes, depending on how busy it is (despite showing up 1 minute before your appointment time) then a nurse calls your name loudly from the hallway, along with the names of 3 other patients, and you are all led down the hallway and dealt into examination rooms (to wait alone for some further, unspecified amount of time).
At the dentist's office, they have Gameboys for the kids to play with while they wait. At the orthodontist's, they have X-Box. At the doctor's office, they have one of those exciting "big wood beads on a wire maze stuck to a table" to be shared by 6 waiting kids, all waiting for 60-97 minutes. This toy takes a maximum of 97 seconds for a two year old to figure out and get bored with.
At the dentist's office, once you get to the chair, they have TVs in the ceiling. You can wear headphones, or switch to close-captioned and laugh at the inaccurate captioning while the hygienist cleans your teeth and puts on the fluoride. At the doctor's office, they have a full-size chart of the large colon on the wall, for you to memorize while you wait for 10-23 more minutes in the examination room for it to finally be your turn.
At the dentist's and orthodontist's office, there is an interesting view out of large, bright windows while you sit in the chair. At the doctor's office there are no windows, and the room is 1/5 the size of the rooms at the dentist and orthodontist.
At the dentist, the orthodontist and the doctor, the care is top-notch. In all cases the assistants, hygienists, nurses, dentist, orthodontist and doctor are jewels. It's just you get to see some of them a lot more quickly and easily than you get to see others. If you phone them, they all phone you back the same day. They are all skilled and dedicated and care for us compassionately as their patients and as individuals.
I think the difference is that we need the doctor, and have little choice about who to go to and whether we go. When you are sick, you have to go to the doctor, whereas you can postpone the dentist or orthodontist, or choose a new one if you are less than satisfied with any aspect of the experience. If you are lucky (like us) to have a family doctor, you had better hang in and hang on because there are no other family doctors out there accepting patients. The dentist and the orthodontist have to compete to keep you. The doctor is overloaded with demands and can only do the best he or she can to take care of all of those patients.
This makes it hard to get family members to tough out the crappy conditions and survive the wait and discomfort associated with going to the doctor, especially when they have the experience of the dentist and orthodontist for comparison.
I wish it was different, and I certainly don't advocate that doctors operate privately the way that dentists and orthodontists do. Still, when someone is sick, it sucks. I wish the dentist could take care of strep throat or the orthodontist could deal with a plantar wart. I'd definitely go there.
question: how is it at your doctor's?
mompoet - don't get me started about the veterinarian - they even have treats for the patients there, but the downside is that they weigh everyone in the lobby
question: what have you heard/seen/read lately that left you wanting more?
mompoet - savouring abundance
Andy and I were invited to celebrate Norooz with the Iranian-Canadian seniors' group at the rec centre where I work. This group has been meeting for almost a year, and they have been planning this celebration for most of that time. It's the Persian New Year, celebrated in a thirteen day festival, beginning on the eve of the first day of Spring. Saturday night's celebration was a wonderful banquet, with music and dancing. Andy and I attended along with the President of the seniors' society, and were treated as honoured guests. We learned about Iranian culture and customs, and met some of the families who came to share the occasion with the grandmas and grandpas who attend our centre.
Our hosts were gracious in introducing us to their customs and explaining things. One of the grandmas told me about a favourite Iranian recording artist who was forced to leave the country after the revolution, due to her political views. She found it impossible to live outside of her country, became depressed, and died a few years later, and much too young, of an overdose of medication. The same grandma told me that she had visited Iran twice since coming to Canada 22 years ago. She has raised her daughters here and is glad that she left. She told me that many others would like to leave but they can't. This theme of loving country and culture but choosing a better life for their families was repeated in several of our conversations throughout the evening.
The supper was delicious - lamb, rice and salad and a dozen different little sweets for dessert, along with ice cream and entreaties to eat more: "Please repeat Dear Sue McIntyre!"
Most delicious of all was the spirited dancing to live music and singing. Everyone got up and danced to the music of the various ethnic groups within Iran. I had to hold my breath watching some of the grandpas go! One man, who had to be 60 at least was jumping and shaking and doing somersaults. He did not sit down at all in over two hours of dancing time!
It was a delightful evening - such wonderful fun and gracious hosts, and the warm and happy spirit of our Iranian friends.
For information about Norooz, here's a link.
question: when does your new year begin?
mompoet - Norooz Mobaarak
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Soleil - Since her last visit...
Soleil seems to be a bit better since she started back on the Rymadyl and Amantadine 2 weeks ago. Her back legs still collapse a few times each day, and she still stumbles down the stairs, but she is much more willing to go down the stairs, and she's climbing up them more ably. If her mobility was 3.5 or 4 out of 10 prior to resuming the meds, it's now 4.5 or 5. She still responds eagerly to the offer of a walk outdoors. We keep her on short ones (10-15 minutes at a slow pace with lots of sniffing and visiting) and we choose routes without stairs. She's eating fine, sleeping fine, and the new meds haven't seemed to change her bathroom habits in any way.
After her last chiropractor appointment she was a bit tender, as usual, and favoured her left rear leg, occasionally knuckling over on that foot for a couple of days. By Monday, she seemed to be on the upswing. Whether it was the meds, or the adjustment, or both, we're not sure.
At home, Soleil seems to be happy to be around her people and her sister-cat. She's still sparky enough to get into mischief, foiling the barricades we put up to keep her out of the living room while we are at work, and rooting out apples that are accidentally left in handbags set on the floor. To her, stretched out on the living room floor in front of the couch is the next best thing to heaven.
We would like to keep her in front of the couch a bit longer - heaven's getting closer, we know. So long as she's reasonably comfortable and able, we're game to continue with non-invasive strategies to help her through her days.
If you have any questions that Alex can't answer, please give me a call.
question: how is it we miss her even while she is with us?
mompoet - sad
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
April, June and November
All the rest...
be still now
wait for midnight
witness calendar turn-line
one day to the next
in that moment (geometrically non-existent)
search - not sure what for
break fingernails on sticky advent calendar doors
push clock hands backward
test for spring
mull moon charts
order is not in is not order in
pillow dent - perplexingly familiar
tune your in head in head your head
jolt of no stair where a stair should be
the thought of a list
work yet undone
dust mote clues
are they gone? here?
posing as grocery carts? pineapples? lame excuses?
hide hide hide plain in sight plain sight
are these hash marks? or claw scrapes?
where is that length of string
knotted for remembering?
fingers, toes, rhymes, labels
losing track of
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Here's the BWS event page.
Here's Irene. Here's a sample of Irene's work.
I can't wait!
question: will you go to Irene's show?
mompoet - see you there, I hope!
question: when (and where) do you find quiet?
mompoet - right here, in quiet, right now
Monday, March 16, 2009
swallows bright segments
twisting to escape
it's no wonder
fur, bones, teeth, beak, feathers
all parts indigestible
in dark, slick packages
dropping softly to earth
beneath her feeding place
examine one packet with care
unwind hairs and barbules
reconstruct a night's feasting
a whole but meatless mouse
toad sucked dry
insect casings still scale-hard
minus the squish inside
imagine the final moment of
small paws in dark soil
a last, fatal dip in the mud
a brush of low boughs
seeming-safe on fleet wings
bits spit out in bundles
outlines for life stories
of no great consequence
Saturday, March 14, 2009
While I opened the lost and found drawer to look for the glasses, I complimented Tony on the choir's performance and thanked him for singing for us. I asked him how he enjoyed being in the choir. He told me that e joined when the president of the Seniors' Society invited him. The president (also a choir member) was looking for more men to join the choir. Tony told me that he usually comes to the centre only for sports activities - not the social and cultural stuff, but the president persuaded him to try singing. He didn't sing anywhere else, and was really enjoying it.
That's just one of the moments at work.
I'm sorry to say, I did not find Tony's glasses. He thought of one more place that he might look. Now I know one more member by name, and I know another story about trying something unlikely and new, and loving it.
question: what sweet moments did you come across this week?
mompoet - appreciating all of the people
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
This week Andy brought home an RCA clock radio/cd player for our bedroom. The thought is that we can listen to music as we fall asleep, and the device will turn itself off by a timer. It will also wake us with our choice of music.
The first night
Andy plugged in the clock radio and went to sleep. I was out late at the Sistahood Slam. I noticed, as I tiptoed into the room just past midnight, that I had a relatively easy time finding my way to bed. I could not understand why, but I was tired and did not think much about it.
Later the first night
I had a bit of trouble falling asleep, with poems whirling through my head. It had been a great night! I fell partway asleep then woke most of the way up. That's when I noticed the glow, or more accurately, glare of the new clock. Its light was approximately equal to that of a half ton truck with its high beams on. How could this be a night time clock? I must have woke up 3 or 4 times in the night. Every time I looked at it, it seemed brighter. Normally I sleep easily. With that thing shining less than a foot from my face, it was a struggle to rest.
The next morning
I told Andy that the light was too bright. He said he would do something about it.
The second night
I came to bed pretty early (being totally exhausted from the late, bright, night before). Andy had turned the clock radio to face the wall. Now the brightness was not a problem, but telling the time was. Never mind, I did not need to know what time it was. I needed to sleep. I slept.
At some ungodly hour in the middle of the night, we awoke to the simultaneous shriek of the radio blasting staticky awfulness, and the alarm going BEEEP BEEEP BEEEP! This sound made our smoke detector sound like a soothing melody, and it was less than a foot from my head. Who brought this horror bomb into my refuge of rest? Please make it stop! Andy fumbled and cursed in the dark until I implored him to just turn on the light. He could not figure out how to turn off the alarm. I implored him to just pull out the plug!!! So he had to move the headboard of our bed because the plug is on the wall behind the headboard, so I sort of partway got up until he yanked the cord out of the wall, threw the clock on the floor and replaced the headboard. Then we slept.
Approximately 10 minutes later
BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP! the unplugged, dark-faced clock radio was beeping again! Andy scrambled in the dark on the floor to find it, pushing buttons and saying more bad words. Finally he discovered the cover to the power failure battery compartment, forcibly removed the backup battery and threw the clock back on the floor. We slept.
I came home from work. Andy was working on the clock radio, trying to figure it out. Even with the brightness turned all the way down, it was way too bright. He brought home a piece of darkened film from work and taped it over the display of the clock. We went into the bathroom together and closed the door. It was completely dark. The clock was dim enough for sleeping. Good.
Andy went out to pick up Fiona from school and drive her to dance class. Alex was not yet home from work. I was home alone with the haunted alarm clock, which Andy had once again plugged in, now facing out, in our bedroom.
BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP It took me a moment to realise, it was going again. This time I could not stop myself from laughing. I went upstairs and phoned Andy, from our bedroom. I got his cell phone voicemail, and left him a nice beepful message of hysterical laughter and whining about our ongoing problem with the awful, vile, evil, annoying alarm clock radio. Before I hung up, I allowed it to beep a few more times into my voicemail message. Then I hung up and tried to figure out how to turn off the alarm. I found a button marked "OFF." I tried it. The beeping stopped. Before I could find out if the stopping was permanent or temporary I left the house and moved to another country. Well, actually I went to the church for my sandwich-making group. But leaving the country sure sounds like a more dramatic ending (I HOPE) to this story.
So far the clock is quiet. Will we sleep through the night? Will the ghost of air raid siren waken us again? Will there be peace in this traumatized home?
question: what do you think will happen?
mompoet - going to bed now - perhaps to sleep
ps - "I HOPE" refers to hoping it is really the end of the story, not to hopeing that I will leave the country
We have a bait locker program at the rec centre, with warning signs posted. If a thief breaks into a bait locker, an alarm sounds, and we can either stop the person and call the police, or at least get a description and a security camera photo as the person exits. When the police heard we'd finally had a locker break-in (the first since the bait lockers were all set several months ago), they got excited and came right over to the centre. I felt pretty important, having two officers attend over the theft of a bottle of shampoo. When they found out it wasn't a bait locker that was busted after all, they were less excited, but still very kind.
I'm glad it was me, and not one of our customers. I'm glad I didn't lose anything of substantial value. I guess it's good that this is the first locker theft in months. I will miss my combo lock. Oh well, I still have my stapler from the first year of university. I'm not terribly attached to things, but I am very impressed when a simple object does a fine job for an extended period of time.
question: did you ever have your locker broken?
mompoet - victim of crime (small scale)
Monday, March 09, 2009
On Sunday we switched to daylight savings time and lost an hour of sleep. We also got snow. It began mid-afternoon and continued on and off through the night. It's snowing lightly now. These photos were taken around 6pm Sunday evening.
question: did you get snow?
mompoet - I don't get it (or at least I wish I didn't)
The sets were simple and elegant, and the costumes were wonderful. All of the weeks and months of working on the show culminated in what the company's artistic director called "a shining success."
All kinds of friends and family came to see the show. Thanks everyone!
We are so proud of Fiona and feel blessed to see her doing what she does best and loves most.
question: are there giants in the sky?
mompoet - sometimes I do believe...
Friday, March 06, 2009
Andy has taken this week off work to help with the show. They got into the theatre on Monday, and he spent the day painting and setting up the stage. Rehearsals in the theatre have run through this week, and Andy has been given the awesom job of follow-spot operator. I've done that just once, so I appreciate how important, nerve-wracking and fun it is.
Lots of people who know and love Fiona will be there for the show, so I'll get to chat with friends and family during the breaks, and enjoy them enjoying our girl's work.
question: have you seen Into the Woods?
mompoet - can't wait
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
It's on Monday, March 9 at 8:45pm (but get there around 7:30 to get a seat) at Cafe Deux Soleils 2096 Commercial Drive. Admission is $10.
question: where are your sisters?
mompoet - surrounded by sisters
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
question: what do you dream?
mompoet - looking at reality through the eyelid lens
Monday, March 02, 2009
Check out the owl pages for more info and cool pictures of these strange and beautiful creatures.
question: which do you like better: barn owl? or barred owl?
mompoet - who cooks? who cooks for you? schrrrrreeee!