Friday, December 31, 2010

what else could go wrong?

This is from youtube - video of a community theatre production of Peter Pan. Watch carefully after the curtain re-opens. Peter Pan appears at the window. The script calls for him to fly into the room, have a conversation with grown-up Wendy (to the right, in the rocking chair), then fly off with Jane, Wendy's daughter, who is in the bed on the left. Whoever was flying the actors must have pulled on the wrong wire. Watch as Peter stays grounded on the windowsill, and poor Jane is yanked, unexpectedly from bed.



question: who is flying?

mompoet - loving the unexpected, especially when nobody gets hurt

desserts of 2010



Yesterday was almost the last day of the year. Andrew, Fiona and I drove down to Bellingham to shop at Bellis Fair for a couple of hours. On the way home, we stopped at the wonderful Edaleen Dairy for milk, and decided to get ice cream cones too. Neither Fiona nor I could finish our "single scoop" cones. We decided that next time we must order the baby cone instead. Andrew, on the other hand, devoured the "super" size soft serve that he ordered.

Later, we went to the home of our friends, Robin, Ralph and Emma for supper. We were joined there by Louise, and also by my Mom and Dad. We enjoyed a delicious potluck supper and lots of laughter. Louise made the exquisite towering cake and ice cream creation that you see in the photograph. It was almost as tall as Andrew's ice cream cone.

question: what dessert do you choose for your last one of 2010?

mompoet - happy (hippy) new year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

big apple greeters



I just submitted a request for a tour with a Big Apple Greeter. It looks like a great way to get to know a New York City neighbourhood a little bit better - something we'd never find on our own.

question: If you could show somebody your favourite neighbourhood, what would you show them?

mompoet - hoping we are chosen!

$99 for laser hair removal in brooklyn

Fiona and I will be in New York City in mid-January. It's part of a college audition trip she'll be taking (and I get to go along!) to some prospective universities. In between Dayton Ohio and Montclair New Jersey we get a 5 day stopover in New York City.

I have been researching good deals for while we are there. Fiona's on top of how to get rush tickets to Broadway musicals. I'm looking at the other stuff. I have been checking out Groupon deals for New York City. So far I can get a cheap dental exam, Bikram yoga sessions and laser hair removal, but that's not quite what we're looking for. I'll keep checking, though!

As well as New York, Montclair and Dayton, we'll be in Ann Arbor and Berea (near Cleveland). We'll fly the big legs, then drive around Michigan and Ohio. I am praying for favourable weather. This will be a challenging trip for me as the transportation and accommodation coordinator and loving support mom. It will be even more challenging for Fiona to perform at the auditions. We'll both get a chance to look at the schools that she is considering, and think about what it would be like to live and study there.

If you know any great things to do or see that don't cost a million dollars, please let me know. Our touristing will be confined to the New York part of the trip, because of the tight timeline to get in and out of the other cities.

question: How much would you pay for laser hair removal in Brooklyn?

mompoet - figuring it all out

Friday, December 24, 2010

movie

In the middle of all of the eye-piercing ear-splitting spectacles and heart-jolting suspense thrillers and over-inflated romantic comedies, there are some gems. I just found one of them. Alex and I saw The King's Speech last night. It was understated and lovely. I recommend it. Like a crisp fresh pear among all of the plum puddings and turduckens.

question: seen any good movies lately?

mompoet - liking the ones that are mostly about people

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I remember



This is the song "I Remember," written by Stephen Sondheim for a TV musical drama special called Evening Primrose. It aired in 1966 on ABC Stage 67. It's newly available on DVD, and I ordered it for a birthday present for myself. Charmian Carr, the actor who played Liesl in The Sound of Music, plays Ella in the TV special. Anthony Perkins plays Charles, a young poet who decides to escape the harsh world outside and live secretly in a department store. He is surprised to find Ella and a community of other people already living there.

Watching a show made for TV in the 60s is a little bit strange. The production style and quality is somewhat distracting but the story is strange and compelling, and the characters simply drawn but authentic. Anthony Perkins can talk/sing his way through a song pretty well. Charmian Carr is lovely, lovely, lovely. Stephen Sondheim is simply splendid, as usual.

question: what do you remember?

mompoet - feeling the beat of my heart in the rhythm of a song

Irv RIP

One of our friends from the Cold Wet Weather Mat Program died outside on Sunday. Here's a news story about his death. I feel sad to know that his hard life ended far too early. I wish that we would have done something to make a different outcome for Irv.

Please continue to support the establishment of a permanent shelter for homeless people in the tri-cities. These are our brothers and sisters.

question: what can we do?

mompoet - pondering

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

cleaning house - response to fernando's burrito

my vacuum cleaner
cleans floor
like a
teenager
cleans bedroom

45 minutes
of angry smelly
injured cursing
like
I just asked it to
hijack the mail truck
to the children's hospital
or tell an untruth
on its
twitter feed

it picks up nothing
kicks through
the stuff on the floor
picks up nothing
shouts about stuff
I must have taken
and hidden
(like I would have
any reason to
take and hide
its stuff)
it picks up nothing

finally
finds one thing
it wants
takes it to another room
drops it there
complains
it is too full
too hot
too tired
too busy
too teenager
to actually suck
at anything

I pick up that this is a time
to pick my battles
and retreat
for now
wondering
is this a stage
or a permanent disability?
is it my fault
that my vacuum cleaner
won't suck?

It's only the bedroom
we can close the door
I'm not resentful

but for now
I will not call it a vacuum
I will call it a vacum
because it doesn't pick up anything
it doesn't suck
and it doesn't deserve
to have the letter u
twice in its name

SHARE Food Bank - putting the Christmas season in perspective

I'm at home this morning, preparing to work an afternoon shift at the rec centre. I got up early anyway and made breakfast for Alex, who was heading out to the university to meet up about a documentary project on which he will be volunteering.

We were looking at the morning news, and saw a story about the Tri-Cities SHARE Food Bank being in desperate need of food and cash donations for the Christmas season. Alex agreed to pitch in some cash, and so did Fiona, so our family could make a donation today.

I drove Fiona up to school. On the way home, I stopped by the Food Bank main office on Spring Street in Port Moody. Wednesday is food bank day, so the place was buzzing with volunteers, delivery trucks and clients beginning to line up outside. It took about 5 minutes to make a donation, and I got to chat with my neighbour Barb, who volunteers there.

Here's a story in the Vancouver Sun about the SHARE Food Bank. Please consider giving them some food or money. There's a drop-off at Coquitlam Save On Foods tonight (Wednesday, December 15 4-7pm) or you can call in a credit card donation or visit the Food Bank office. Cash donations go a long way, providing approximately triple the value of what we could purchase at the grocery store.

It feels good to know there's still something we can do to help this close to Christmas. It's hard to imagine what it would be like to not be sure about having enough food for the family for the next week, or the one after.

I drove home and visited my secret chocolate stash. I ate 4 coconut M&Ms from a package that my friend Helen brought back to me from her trip to Hawaii. I though about how lucky I am that my biggest nutritional concern this time of year is NOT eating too much food. I thought about how good it is for a family to collaborate on giving, how it can allow all of us to share the good things that are abundant in our lives. I thought, "I'll tell my friends about this."

question: what's for supper at your house today?

mompoet - taking a look at the big picture

Monday, December 13, 2010

I need a vacation from my weekend

Oh la la. Things have been busy around here - all good, but busy.

Andy had to work afternoon shift all last week, to cover for a co-worker who took a vacation week. This kind of turned our world upside down. He and I didn't see each other except with our eyes closed at 3 in the morning for a couple of hours before I woke up. We kept in touch by phone and email but it's just not the same as being awake in the same room.

Fiona had tech week, preview and opening night for Annie at Gateway Theatre in Richmond. She spent a lot of time at the theatre, and also went to school and even taught her class on Saturday morning before going to the theatre to do two shows. Thank goodness for her energy, discipline and organization. When she can get through a week like this and hold it together, I feel so good. I admire her and I'm thankful for all that she can do. Thank goodness also for our car pool with another family in our area. It's good to share all of the driving, and the experience of having the girls in the show. Andy and I went to opening night on Friday. It's a very sweet and funny production. It runs through New Year's Eve. Tickets are here.

Also this weekend, Alex did some volunteer production assistant work on the Vancouver auditions of So You Think You Can Dance Canada. He worked 2 long days at this in Vancouver, starting so early Saturday that public transit wasn't ready to take him there. Saturday morning I drove him downtown for 6:30am. It's very quiet downtown at 6:30am. He said it was a good experience, he worked hard and saw a bit of the dancing. He says "YES!" he would do it again. I hope so!

Our neighbours Doris and Dave hosted a potluck and games night Saturday. It's great to go to a party just up the street - no driving! We had a yummy time, and met some new friends from our neighbourhood and from the neighbourhood where Doris and Dave lived before they moved here. Both Andy and I were so tired we left before the card-playing began. It's a very short walk home to crash and start catching up on our rest!

In between all of this, I ran a few errands, did some housework, cooked some yummy meals, and went to church Sunday. Even on the busiest of weekends, church gives me energy. I missed last Sunday to drive the girls to Richmond for rehearsal, and the one before that for my birthday sleep-in. When I go back it's like recharging my spirit. Somehow, taking the time for worship and community gives me more time that day and for the rest of the week.

Did I mention I was on-call for emergency social services this weekend? Thank you to Robin, who took the blackberry Friday afternoon and stayed up until 1am to give it back from me when I returned with Fiona from the opening night party. It was good to see the show and know I wouldn't be called away to help with an emergency.

On Sunday evening I got Fiona's knitting book out, along with some needles borrowed from my mom. Guess what? I still know how to knit. Now I have something to do in my spare time. HA!

question: how do you recharge after you have been running at maximum capacity?

mompoet - grateful for all of this good stuff that keeps us so busy

Thursday, December 09, 2010

such a nice thing for an almost-winter evening

I made this New York Times recipe last night for supper. Of course I altered it, using brussels sprouts instead of peas, because I like brussels sprouts so much better than peas, and also I am still craving the petit cabbages every day.

For the fresh herbs I chose Italian parsley and basil. That was a good choice. I didn't have an organic lemon (oh me oh my, my horribly deprived epicurean existence) but it was still yummy with the regular kind.

question: what do you substitute?

mompoet - bon appetit!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

shoe memorial





I was downtown Monday morning, so I walked over to the art gallery to look at the Shoe Memorial. It commemorates the Montreal Massacre of 1989, in which 14 female students were killed by a gunman raging against women. It also commemorates each one of the girls and women who died in acts of violence in the Vancouver area in the past 20 years.

When I saw the shoes I imagined a girl or woman standing in each pair. The old courthouse steps were crowded with smiling women, alive with vibrant energy. I thought of the lost potential of all of those lives.

A volunteer talked to me about the memorial and gave me some pamphlets. You can check out this website for information and suggestions.

question: why do people hurt people?

mompoet - perplexed

Monday, December 06, 2010

it's official - this is the longest birthday in the world

A week after my birthday, and my birthday is still going on. It began on November 12, with a beautiful supper prepared by my friends Kathy and Michele, and just keeps going!

On the 20th, Andy and I went out for our "in between our birthdays" supper. We chose Primo's Mexican Restaurant. It was great! They're celebrating 50 years of operating in Vancouver, which is kind of nice for our birthdays because 50 is in between Andy's age and my age. We will definitely go back soon.

I had my family celebration last Sunday. Niece Maya and I cooked up a beautiful Indian feast at my parents' place, and Maya made a yummy chocolate ganache cake with lots of whipped cream and strawberries.

The kids pooled their money and bought me Stephen Sondheim's Finishing the Hat. This promises to be a juicy holiday read.

At work on my birthday, everyone sang to me and gave me a tiara and a pirate sword to wear all day, and a card to "Mama Bear" with bear-themed greetings. So I am either a bear, a princess, or a pirate, or perhaps all three.

On Friday, Louise and I had our annual lunch out at Anton's Pasta. Our birthdays are just 5 days apart, and we have celebrated at this same restaurant every year for as long as I can remember. Louise gave me a birthday card that farts when you open it. COOL!

The final installment will take place on Jan 7, because that's when all of the Ladeez in the 'Hood can make it. Cathy will craft me my very own signature cocktail, and we'll have an evening at her place. I think I'm supposed to bring the tiara and the sword and the traveling pajamas, but probably not the farting birthday card.

The traveling pajamas will make an appearance some time this December, with a Port Moody photo session with some of the Ladeez and me. This is not a birthday celebration, although we could call it the pajamas' birthday and buy them a drink.

All through the past couple of weeks I have received so many birthday cards that we ran out of space to display them. On the day, facebook had to open a new url, just to handle the traffic for my birthday greeting posts.

I feel blessed to have so many friends who give me their love and attention. I love celebrating any time. I have been made to feel funny and special and loved.

question: do you like good things that go on for a good long time?

mompoet - thank you everyone!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

container village

what if we opened our church and nothing happened?

Beginning this Thursday evening, St. Andrew's United Church will offer a commuter sanctuary from 5-7pm. This will take place on 3 Thursdays in December: 2, 9 and 16. The doors will be open to weary travelers and anyone else who wants to come in, be still and prepare their hearts for Christmas. Here's the story in the Now newspaper.

Our minister and a few congregation members will be there each Thursday night to make a quiet, warm, welcome place for peace and rest. If you are passing by, I hope you'll stop and join us. You may find something that you are missing in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and the holiday season. Then again, nothing may happen, and that would be good too.

question: where do you find peace?

mompoet - embracing advent

Monday, November 29, 2010

and now, cats playing patty cake (from youtube)

birthday morning

I went to bed absolutely stuffed with food, but happily so! We went over to Mom's and Dad's for supper. I helped my niece Maya make an absolutely delicious Indian supper of butter chicken, roasted curry veggies, fresh naan and salad with mangoes and raspberry vinaigrette. Maya baked a chocolate ganache cake, and garnished it with whipped cream and strawberries. What a feast!

I woke up feeling not so stuffed, but still a bit warmly garlicky. That's fine, I'm the birthday girl today! On the ledge at the top of the stairs: a card from Fiona and a copy of Stephen Sondheim's Finishing the Hat. On the computer: facebook messages from friends everywhere.

I will walk to work this morning (my favourite way to get to work). I know there's a tiara and a pirate sword in my letter tray because I saw it as I was leaving Friday. Linda returns from 2 weeks in Mexico, which is like a birthday present too.

So far it's a happy and quiet beginning. I am looking forward to the rest of this day. I am 49.

question: how is your day beginning?

mompoet - garlicky, pampered and blessed

Saturday, November 27, 2010

opportunity knocks

I just got home from the movies. I checked my email and found a bit of spam that made it past the filter. I'm glad it did. It's the funniest thing I've read or seen today:

I scored $44 in 2 days in my free time! I learned from - (website name deleted) Remember who hooked you up!

Holy smokes! $44 in 2 days. Imagine what I could make if I worked at it for a week, a month, a year! I could afford a new Nintendo, or possibly Starbucks every day and a hockey jersey in time for the playoffs!

This made me think of other great enticing spam-mails that might come my way. I would be just tickled to receive any of the following:

  • Male enlargement - from theoretical to microscopic to visible by the human eye - find out how!
  • I lost 12 pounds in 6 months! You can too!
  • Make hundreds in the real estate market with 47 simple tips every smart investor should know.
  • Breathing changed my life. Find out how you can start today.
  • Change in your pockets. Check those old coats and find enough to pay for parking or the bus.
  • The secret to true love and lasting happiness. Ask your mom. She was right all along.
  • Twelve miracle foods that don't make you fart.
  • It's never too late to change your socks. Find the courage now.
Clearly, it is time for me to go to bed. I will bid this day adieu and look forward to a tomorrow filled with overwhelmingly awesome revelations and opportunities. Good night.

question: do you know the secret of whatever you want for free, without any effort?

mompoet - laughing is cheap and easy

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

c-c-c-cold

I love the coming of winter. The lengthening nights, bare trees, the contrast between indoors and outdoors and the coziness of sweaters all delight me tremendously. It helps that my birthday is in late fall. This time of year has always excited me. I don't care if it's freezing or snowing or pouring rain. If it's dark and gloomy outside, it serves only as a dramatic backdrop for the excitement of life, and enjoyment of all of the good things.

It has been unseasonably cold this week, with a wind that makes it feel even colder. I have bundled up and continued my walks to and from work. Yesterday, I wore two layers of pants, 3 layers of shirts/sweaters, a down parka, toque and two 4 pairs of gloves, thick socks and hiking boots. I was fine! It's bright and clear out and exceptionally beautiful in a bleak sort of way. The furnace has been working overtime, and last night, I put a magic bag (fabric bag full of wheat, heated in the microwave) into the bed a few minutes before I climbed in. It is warm and safe at home.

I have been worrying about our homeless friends out there. The shelter continues at our church until the end of the month, when it will move to the next church in the program. We had only 11 people overnight Monday. I wonder where everyone is? We can take 30, and it's estimated that there are a 100-200 homeless people in our catchment area for the shelter. I hope that they are finding other places. It would be dangerous to be outside at night in this temperature. Heck, it's dangerous to be outside any night, just worse now.

In the meantime, I am sharing many delights of this little preview of winter:
  • Our potluck lunch this month at work was "comfort food." Three people brought soup. Any lunch that features soup is a good lunch for me! I tried to make brussels sprouts with butter and salt and pepper, but there were no brussels sprouts in the store. Have they been hijacked to the US for Thanksgiving? I want brussels sprouts! I made cauliflower, carrots and broccoli with butter and salt and pepper instead.
  • The aforementioned magic bag was a godsend last night. I heated it in the microwave for 3 minutes, then tucked it under the covers for about 10 minutes before I climbed into bed. The bed was so warm!
  • Lip gloss - I have sworn to pay penance upon the discovery that I own 7 lip glosses. That is excessive! I will make an extra donation to First United, in recognition that I have enough excess money to accumulate 7 lip glosses. They are helpful for protecting my lips on cold days, if I remember to put them on.
  • Movies are good when it's cold out. Alex and I will go see Harry Potter when I finish work today. He saw it on opening day (at a midnight screening) but wants to see it again with me.
  • Thermoses are lovely for car rides. I picked Fiona up in between lessons the other night, and brought her a warm pasta meal in a small wide-mouth thermos. That was a lovely surprise for her, and easy to do.
  • Hot dog day. At work today, the kitchen ladies are cooking up hot dogs for lunch. I'll skip the dog in favour of something a bit more healthful. I do enjoy seeing the happiness that a hot dog, some potato chips and a couple of chocolate chip cookies brings to some of our seniors. It's a treat they'd never make for themselves at home. I also cavort around with a giant inflatable wiener to promote/celebrate hot dog day, which is always fun.
I'd better get going and eat some breakfast, then pack my knapsack and walk out into the cold, clear morning to go to work. I'm baking yams this morning. I know it's weird, but I was too tired to bake them last night. So the family is going to wake up to yams for breakfast. At least they are not setting off the smoke alarm, like the bacon did on the weekend.

question: do you like the cold?

mompoet - shivering in delight

Sunday, November 21, 2010

holding on for tight for no apparent reason

I wake each morning with clenched fists and knotted shoulders and elbows. I do not know why I am holding on so tightly in my sleep. I have been trying to tell myself stories of smooth, flat, light and loose as I fall asleep. I flatten my hand and put it under the pillow, under my head before I sleep, so that one hand will not be a knot of fist when I wake.

I am not having nightmares. I am not aware of anything that is stressing me more than usual. I am fit, well and happy. Why am I clenching in sleep? My feet, legs, torso, neck and head are okay. It's just my hands, shoulders and elbows. They ache when I wake, and improve when I've been up for a few minutes. It's not a hurt like my friends with arthritis describe. It's just tension, that releases with consciousness, and builds up with sleep. Kind of the opposite of what I would expect from sleep and muscles and tendons.

Taking ibuprofen before sleep helps a little. Without it I wake up several times in the night to uncurl myself from gripping tightly. During the day I have normal functioning. I'm lifting weights at the gym and performing my usual housework and workday tasks with no problems.

It's more of a puzzle than a complaint. I'd like to figure out what the mechanism is. My intuition says it's something on my mind that is revealing itself in sleep time behaviour. To what am I clinging while I am sleeping? Why can't I let go?

question: what's up with me?

mompoet - wondering about this feeling

Women's Invitational Slam



This is Denise Jolly, who will feature at the 4th Annual Women's Invitational Poetry Slam at the Cottage Bistro in Vancouver. Open mic is at 7:45pm. Slam starts a 8. Admission is $5. Burgers, beer, coffee and other good food and drinks are available, yummy and reasonably priced. I'll be in the slam along with 7 other woman poets. I am honoured and excited. Hope to see you there.

question: what's your story, morning glory?

mompoet - what's your tale, nightingale?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

if not, then I must be

"Did I tell you about the explosion?"
"Uh - I don't think so."
My new friend Kristi is loading the dishwasher at the homeless shelter where we volunteer. I am counting sandwiches and cartons of fresh milk. She launches into a tale of Pillsbury Pop-n-Fresh dough gone wrong, culminating in a late night pantry cataclysm, dough balls embedded in walls and ceiling, rescued with a spatula and baked for the next night's shelter supper.
"I am SO not a cook," she says.

We laugh, and I console her. We're all not good at something.

My own story takes shape in a recurring nightmare about a ball hockey tournament. Thrust into the game unwillingly, I injure my team mates, score on my own goal, and limp away, embarrassed and guilty. I am SO not an athlete, and probably not much of a team player, either. We are all not good at something.

At work, my friend Diane tells me she accidentally packed an uncooked egg in her partner's lunch. Sitting with his buddies in the lunchroom, he cracked it on his head, saying "Good thing this is hard-boiled!" (not).

I know Kristi to be an awesome high school teacher who inspires her students to volunteer at the shelter. She is a role model for kindness and generosity, loved and admired by everyone whose life she touches. Diane is a working artist who facilitates community art projects. After Hurricane Katrina, she visited Louisiana, and initiated a project to link families there with students in schools here through art experiences. I am inspired by her energy, dedication and enthusiasm for new opportunities.

These contrasting impressions make me wonder why, when we talk about our lives with our friends, we lead with our shortcomings? Hi, I'm Sue. I'm a klutz! There, now we can be friends.

I think that this is the way we share ourselves, bonding by blunders, gifting each other with admissions of ineptitude. It's fun and loving, and allows us all to say, "Thank goodness I'm not the only one who is not good at something."

It's also not polite to brag. Writing this blog, I hesitated about beginning my post by mentioning the homeless shelter. Will I be showing off if I say that I volunteer? Maybe I should leave that until later.

I think it's also more comfortable to laugh about silly, trivial things than it is to share what's really meaningful in our lives. We save that for the right moment in a conversation or a friendship. When we get to that, we know there's trust and mutual regard for one another.

Finally, the failings we share in social conversation are typically light-hearted and inconsequential. They are not expressions of our deepest, darkest anguish about ourselves and what we cannot do or have not done. They're more the twitter or facebook profile one-liner updates about what's gone wrong. They are suitable for mixed audiences, re-tweeting and repeating as needed, without compromising confidentiality. I told both Kristi's and Diane's stories to Andy and the kids when I got home. They loved them, and probably like Diane and Kristi even more without knowing them well at all, because of this re-telling.

I started out feeling a bit sad about this practice of light self-deprecation, but I having thought it through out loud, I guess it's okay. It's okay so long as it's not all we share with one another. I'll tell you how I set the smoke alarms off at 7:30 this morning with an oven full of bacon, if you'll tell me your laundry mistake. I'll tell you how I electrocuted myself and our pet cockatiel one time (we both survived) if you tell me how you accidentally brushed your teeth with Preparation H. We find our way into friendship this way, and move on to a better knowing of one another along the way. We are all not good at something. We are all also grand, wonderful and awesome at many things. It's worth the wait to get to those stories. In the meantime we can always laugh.

question: what are you GOOD at?

mompoet - I am good at working things out by blogging them

Monday, November 15, 2010

a fall of lasts and firsts

This fall, we are saying goodbye to high school. It's Fi's last year in public school, so every event and activity is our final one as parents of a high school student. I don't get overly sentimental about such things, being a mostly forward-thinking person. Occasionally though, I stop to wonder what it will be like when this fall of lasts is over.

In one year, our daughter will be living away from home at some university somewhere but not here. We won't be driving her to lessons and rehearsals. Our son may be back in school after a year off to pursue indie projects to get experience in the business, or he may still be working. We'll have a mostly empty room in our house, a car that's sure to be parked more than it is driven, and significantly more time on our hands.

Someone said that when the kids leave you are sad, but you also feel a sense of freedom unlike that which you have ever felt before. I'm not sure if or when I'll feel this, because the kids leave in slim increments. They become independent in such little bits, you barely notice until you stop and have a really good look back. Now, both kids have jobs. When they study, they no longer need our help. One has a credit card. The other will have her driver's license in just a few months. Their identity is less and less tied up with ours. Our purpose is still strongly tied to theirs but in different ways.

As long as we are paying for university, sharing vehicles and inhabiting a home together, we'll be a nuclear family unit. But for the first time, I can actually see what the end of this phase will look like.

Andy and I will have to keep working a few more years, but we see a day when we'll actually renovate this clunky kitchen. I plan to have a party completely and solely in honour of my new oven, when I can afford to get one. It will be called an oven-warming party, of course. We plan to travel. Even when we have a few years more job-life, we'll be able to afford the time and money to take some trips. We want to go to the UK, drive across Canada, make Mexico a yearly thing. We're going to get another dog, but not until at least one of us is retired. Please, friends, hold me to this promise. Do not introduce me to a dog who needs a home now. Please? OK.

All of these things are winking at us now like they know we are coming. For the time being I'm enjoying the in-between of still being wholly with the kids but knowing that this time will soon end.

Fall is new year, more so than January. This is the new year of the last year of things just so. By springtime we'll know some of the answers to our questions. By this time next year we will be living them. For now, we are curious, cautious and jubilant (in a bumbling, but optimistic sort of way).

question: what's coming up for your family?

mompoet - looking at the winking possibilities

Friday, November 12, 2010

how to make apple pancakes on the day off after a stat holiday

1. Try to sleep in until 9. Give up, and sleep in until 8, then get up.

2. Feed the cat. Wait for the cat to finish eating and begin meowing loudly.

3. Pick up the cat. Tell her to be quiet. Everyone else is still sleeping. Pet the cat until she stops meowing and begins purring. Put the cat down somewhere warm.

4. Take care of the dishes left in the sink from last night's fabulous big family lettuce wraps supper. Lettuce wraps are delicious, but preparation makes a lot of dishes, and you did not have room for all of them in the first dishwasher load.

5. Think about putting on the coffee.

6. Heat up the oven for bacon. Put parchment and a baking rack onto a cookie sheet. Arrange the bacon on the rack.

7. Find a recipe in the Betty Crocker Kids Cookbook for oatmeal pancakes. You can adjust as you go. Oatmeal is not equivalent to apples, but the pancakes won't know.

8. Put the bacon into the oven. It will take about 10 minutes at 375 to make perfect, flat, crispy bacon. The grease will drip down through the rack.

9. Mix up the pancake batter (more than enough for 4 people):

1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sour milk (skim milk with a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice mixed in)
2 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter (use the frying pan you're going to use for the pancakes)
2 small apples, peeled and chopped medium-fine

10. Think about putting on the coffee. Finish loading the dishwasher and turn it on.

11. Greet the first waking family member. The bacon alarm clock works! Take the bacon out of the oven and put it to drain on a plate with a paper towel.

12. Cook 3 pancakes in a large frying pan. Use medium heat because the apples make them thick, and you want to be sure they cook through. Wait to flip them until they are uniformly covered with bubbles from the bottom. The second side cooks in no time at all.

13. Serve up the first pancakes to the first waking family member. Garnish with bacon and chunks of fresh apple and honeydew melon. Offer syrup.

14. Greet second waking family member. Respond to query about readiness of coffee with a request for help getting the coffee on. Offer instructions about how many scoops of ground coffee and how much water.

15. Continue cooking the pancakes. Reheat the bacon in the microwave as you serve second and third-waking family members. Offer syrup.

16. Make your own pancakes. Sit with the the pancakes and the Friday paper, and think how it feels like Saturday today. Gosh, these pancakes are good. I don't usually like pancakes, but today is a good day for pancakes.

17. Don't get up. Accept a cup of coffee, poured by second waking family member. Finish reading the newspaper. Smile at the prospect of some good movies coming to theatres other than Harry Potter this week (although of course you will go to Harry Potter too).

18. Put your plate in the sink. Cook 3 leftover pancakes and put them in the fridge for someone's snack later. Don't load the dishwasher. It's still running.

19. Post your blog.

20. Don't get dressed yet. Today is a good day for pajamas.

question: what do you make for breakfast when you are not in a hurry?

mompoet - nesting

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

why I walk

Yesterday, after work, it was dark and rainy. Despite this, I jumped into my walking clothes and gleefully walked home. I had been looking forward to it all day - all week in fact! When I am on-call for Emergency Social Services I must keep my vehicle with me at all times. That means I can't walk to and from work on my on-call week (usually one week out of five). I also can't have a glass of wine. I definitely miss the walk more than the wine!

Walking home last night, I remembered all the reasons why I walk. Here are the things I love about walking to and from work (as opposed to driving or taking the bus).

  • health - I am fitter than I have ever been. Walking isn't the most intense exercise, but I walk approximately 5k to work and 5k home, so there's a definite benefit. Walking has helped me lose about 20 pounds and keep them off. I have great energy and I sleep like a log. Well, I slept like a log before I started walking so much, but now I sleep like a very well-exercised log.
  • relaxation - Whatever stress I have before I walk, it seems all better by the time the walk is done. Rhythmic, repetitive exercise is good for problem solving without the though process. Things get sorted out and put into perspective when I walk. I'm not talking about acute crises (luckily I'm not dealing with any of those) - just the ordinary busy-ness of everyday life. Walking is good for that.
  • seeing things - I would never have seen the standard poodle cavorting with a rubber chicken on the front lawn of a house if I had been driving the car or riding the bus. I would never have noticed the garden that is a hundred different shades and textures of green - just green, that's all. There are lots of rainbows too, that you miss if you are driving. When I walk I see things.
  • music, podcasts - I love to listen to my iPod. I could listen to my car stereo, and I do use the iPod on transit, but I love it best when I am walking.
  • savings - I'm buying new exercise shoes more frequently, and I had to get outdoor gear for poor weather, but it's still cheaper than paying for gas or bus fare.
  • the planet - one less car on the road every day I walk. That's a good thing.
All of these reasons for walking are pretty obvious (well, except may the poodle with the rubber chicken). I think, even without logical reasons, I would still love walking. It just makes me feel happy when I walk. I have pretty great days most days, and walking is often my favourite part of a very good day.

question: why do you walk?

mompoet - walk, walk, walk

Monday, November 08, 2010

walking to work part 3 - excuses

There are days when I wake up and think that it would be easier to drive to work, or take the bus, than it would be to walk. There are days when I walk to work, then by quitting time, I think, "It really would be easier to accept a ride home, or at least take the bus." Here is a list of lame excuses for not walking:

  • (at going home time) I'm in a hurry to get home and do something super important, and I dallied at work and worked a half hour longer than I should have worked, and now I will be late for the super important thing that I have to do at home and there's not enough time to walk. (Phew, by the time I said that, I could have walked halfway home already!)
  • I don't feel like changing back into my walking clothes.
  • (in the morning) I'm late leaving so I'll be late to the office if I walk.
  • I don't feel like packing my work clothes in my backpack.
  • (at going home time) My sweet husband is right across the street at the mall running an errand on his way home from work, and he has just called me to offer me a ride home. (This excuse is technically not lame. Just for the record.)
  • I had to drive to work this morning, so the car is here. If I walk home, how will the car get home?
  • I have to pick up some groceries on the way home.
  • It's a full moon/new moon/eclipse of the moon/transit of Venus/aurora borealis etc
  • It's raining.
  • I forgot to download some new podcasts for the walk.
  • We are out of peanut butter and the cat can't find her house key.
  • I forgot to learn how to play the piano.
  • There is no such thing as bingo pie.
As you can see, I run out of good excuses pretty quickly. Luckily I rarely, if ever, succumb to them. That's because I love the walk and what it does for me. More about that tomorrow.

question: did you talk yourself out of something today?

mompoet - laughing at myself whenever I get the chance

Friday, November 05, 2010

walking to work part 2 - how to pack

Part of the challenge/fun of walking to work is bringing everything that you need with you. I use a combination of packing (in a knapsack) and stashing (under my desk and in a locker).

Clothing
I like to walk to work in exercise clothing, then change into work clothes at the office. Usually, I pack the day's clothing (including shoes and underwear) into my knapsack before I leave for work. This sounds reasonably simple except maybe for folding and packing things so they aren't totally wrinkled and smashed in the pack, or maybe ensuring that the heels of my work shoes don't jab me through the pack while I walk. Those are the easy aspects, actually. What I find challenging is remembering everything that I need, so I don't end up embarrassingly partly dressed when I change for work.

Usually I talk to myself: "underwear, socks, shoes, shirt, pants, sweater, necklace, earrings." Even so, I sometimes forget. One day I had to wear a sport bra all day with a sheer blouse. That wasn't fatal, but I could have done better. More than once I have forgotten work shoes and have worn my runners with a nice outfit all day, which is okay too, but just okay. I have resorted to stashing a few essentials in my locker at work. I have an extra pair of shoes there, a bra, underpants and socks. So I'm pretty much ready for most types of forgetting.

Food
Lunch is the other big consideration. I pack my lunch almost every day. It's cheaper and healthier than buying, and also quicker, considering most days I would rather run errands (on foot) go to the weight room or grab a fitness class with my one hour break. Bringing my lunch means I can eat at my coffee break and save the lunch break for something else more interesting and productive. I put my lunch into a cloth lunchbag and carry it in one of the compartments of my backpack. There's a fridge at work, so when I get there, I transfer my lunch, thus eliminating the need to carry a bulkier insulated lunch bag. If you're walking, remember to pack an extra snack or two. You will be hungry before lunchtime!

I make no effort to minimize the size of my lunch (volume wise). I like leftovers and salads, and I try to pack in reusable containers, rather than disposable bags and wraps. This makes for a bulky lunch, but a yummy one. One of the reasons I am walking is to help take care of the earth, so I feel that my lunch should not contradict this.

Once a month we have a potluck lunch. I cook something that's packable, so not too big or too fragile to stuff into a backpack. A plastic storage container provides good protection. I have called upon a co-worker to bring an extra serving platter in her car so I don't have to lug one with me.

During the cool months, I don't need a drink along the way, but when it's hot outside, I carry a water bottle. My pack has side pockets for water bottles. This makes it easy to reach the water when I need it.

Miscellaneous
Toiletries I mostly keep in my locker at work. We have a shower at work, which is good. Phone and iPod I pack with me in my jacket pockets. The biggest decision is whether to pack or stash a purse, and what to do about a nice coat. If I'm going out of the building to attend a meeting or event, my knapsack might not be the right tote. Likewise, my rain jacket or hoodie might not complement my work attire. Often I'll stash an empty purse under my desk, and hang a nicer coat in my office, and use these for a week or two if I need them during the day.

Umbrella, knapsack cover and additional outerwear are good, depending on the weather forecast. As I mentioned yesterday, my outer gear is mostly squashable and takes up only a small amount of space in the pack.

Papers, books and other stuff get their own compartment in the backpack, away from the lunch bag just in case there are any leaks. Wallet, planner, keys, all of these go in just as if I was packing my purse up for the day.

All of this fits into a regular size knapsack. If I've done well, I have everything for the day. If I forgot, oh well, I'll manage. One thing's for sure. When you have walked 45 minutes toward work, and there's 5 minutes left to go, you can't really turn around and go back home to get something that you should have brought with you. Maybe this walking is good exercise for my memory!

question: what is the silliest thing you forgot to bring to work?

mompoet - forgetting is silly, but usually not fatal

Thursday, November 04, 2010

walking to work part 1 - what to wear

A couple of years ago, I began walking home from work whenever possible. I got a bus pass, and took the community shuttle to work, then walked home. It takes just under an hour from my office to my house. It's a great way to end the day.

About a year ago, I got to thinking about how it would be nice to skip the bus and walk to work also. I had to start out a little earlier to make it to work on time. Walking is slower than taking the bus, but I found that I could do it. Over the course of the year, I have discovered many benefits. I have also found lots of ways to make the walk safe, comfortable and enjoyable. I'll blog about it over the next couple of days.

Today, I'm going to talk about what to wear to walk to work. Generally, I wear exercise clothing for my walk, and change into work clothing once I reach the office. I'll talk about packing work clothing tomorrow.

In warm weather, I generally walk wearing shorts, a t-shirt, light jacket if it's early morning, and running shoes. If I don't wear a jacket, I carry one in case the weather changes. I like to choose a jacket and shorts that have pockets for my iPod and my cell phone. Sometimes one of the kids will phone when I'm en route, or someone from the office will call. I figure it's also good if ever there is an emergency that I'll have my phone on hand. When it's sunny, I wear sunglasses, and I always use sunblock, even first thing in the morning. I have my backpack, and that's about it.

When it's wet outside, I switch shoes. I recently bought a pair of lightweight hiking boot/running shoe things that keep my feet nice and dry. They have come in handy once or twice on my walks up Burnaby Mountain. They have vibram soles, which provide better grip on the loose bits that make steep trails slippery. They're a bit of overkill for suburban sidewalks, but that's okay. I'll try them in place of my snow boots this winter, and see how they match up. The downside of these shoes is that they are less flexible than my running shoes, so a bit less comfortable, but they fit well, and my feet feel good in them for the walk.

I layer yoga pants and a t-shirt and hoodie with rain pants and a rain jacket on wet days. My rain pants are wonderful. Before I got them, rain would splash up from the ground and drop down from the sky, soaking my legs. Now I stay toasty warm and dry, even in a monsoon. I got gore-tex pants, which are great for breathability, and a a waterproof nylon jacket, which is not. When I save up a bit more money, I'll spring for the gore-tex jacket. Please let me know if you see a good sale! I still like to carry an umbrella. I know that's not very athletic of me, but it suits me fine. I have a folding one that fits into my backpack on threatening days. The pants and jacket roll up too, into practically nothing, so I take them in the pack if it looks like it might rain.

My latest find is a waterproof cover for my knapsack. Even with an umbrella, an unprotected pack gets wet during an hour in the driving rain. The water drips off the edge of the umbrella and gets on the bottom half of the pack. I have been packing my belongings inside a plastic bag inside my pack, then taking everything out in the evening, and hanging my pack to dry so it's ready for the next day, but that's a drag. Now I have a lovely device from Mountain Equipment Co-op that promises to cover my pack and shed water on rainy days. It folds up into a slim pouch that fits inside my pack if it looks like rain outside. I haven't tried it in the rain yet. I'll let you know how it works.

When it gets cold I just layer up. Same yoga or track pants, t-shirt, sweater(s) etc. My rain pants add a layer of warmth even if it's dry out. I have insulated snow pants if it's really cold (which is rare where we live). Gloves and hat are the most important pieces of the outfit. My Dad always told me that a hat is worth a sweater (or two) and is the best thing to keep heat in. I have discovered on wintry walks home from work that this is very true. I have two insulated jackets - one with poly fibre fill, the other with down. I don't need the down one very often, but it's good to have, and so toasty warm I never shiver when I have it on.

When it's dark out, I wear reflective velcro bands on my wrists and ankles. My jacket has reflector strips, and I fix small blinking red LEDs to my pack and the front of my jacket. These little lights are available at the hardware store and at pet stores. They're the same as people put on their dogs' collars to walk them at night. They are very visible. I have seen drivers slow their cars as we approach one another on a dark street. "What's that? OH! It's a walking mom with flashing red lights attached to her clothing!" I know how difficult it is for me to spot pedestrians on dark corners on dark nights when I am driving. I want to give those drivers all the help they can get, spotting me!

It's taken me a while to assemble this wardrobe of walking clothes. Dressing for the walk definitely helps keep me comfortable, safe and happy. The wet and cold weather gear helps me keep my walking commitment through the winter months.

Tomorrow: how to pack for a walk-to-work day

question: where do you walk?

mompoet - walk, walk, walk to work

Monday, November 01, 2010

halloween

Halloween on a Sunday worked out pretty well this year. Here's a rundown of how our day went:

Our neighbourhood is a popular place for trick-or-treating. Lots of kids live here, and others come to our place specifically because it is so safe and easy and so much fun for going door to door. Lots of people decorate their carports and front doors, and many dress up to hand out treats. We like to set up chairs and a table in the carport because it's easier than answering the door 100 times!

Andy decorated our place earlier in the week. There was a coffin and tombstones in the garden and pumpkin and skeleton lights, caution tape and spider web inside the carport. On Halloween afternoon I carved the jack-o-lanterns and set them out. Andy added the electronic gizmos (flying bats, a wiggling hand reaching out from the coffin, creepy music tombstone, strobe light in the tree and Frankenstein who dances to "Thriller.") Frankenstein is the little kids' favourite. The neighbourhood dogs are mesmerized by the bats. It's quite funny to watch the kids and the dogs.

At church in the morning, Reverend Julie talked with the children about all saints and all souls days as the basis for Halloween, and encouraged everyone to feel good about church + trick-or-treating. The tooth fairy and a fairy princess attended church. Julie said, "you know it's a good day when the Christ candle is lit by the tooth fairy." I stayed after the service for a meeting of shelter shift coordinators. Our church kicks off the Cold Wet Weather Mat program on November 1. During November, I'll be in charge of the morning crew two days a week. We'll make and serve breakfast, hand out lunches, then put away the beds and clean the church hall, kitchen and bathrooms after our guests leave. It looks like a good crew this year. It's our fourth year hosting, so we're pretty confident about what we're doing.

We had a low-key day at home after church, doing a bit of cleaning and getting ready for Halloween. I didn't bake parent treats or make a big coffee set-up this year, mostly because I was planning to go out after trick-or-treating, and I wanted to keep things simple, especially the cleanup. We put about 180 pieces of candy into a bowl. I didn't eat any. Andy and the kids maybe had one or two each, really! Outside, neighbours were putting finishing touches on decorations, and the kids were all in their costumes early and eager. I love how much kids love Halloween!

The first knock on our door was at about 5:20. I got set up in the carport for 5:30, and we handed out treats until 7:30. Lots of neighbours were out with their kids, or in their carports handing out treats, so we criss-crossed the street, visiting one another. I tried not to scare the kids with my dead Emily Dickinson costume, although this was hard to do because I wasn't wearing my glasses, so I had to get close to see their costumes. If anyone looked reluctant, I just made myself scarce, an Emily Dickinson trait, I think.

All of the trick-or-treating shut down for the neighbourhood fireworks display promptly at 7:30. (This is a good thing, because I handed out the last piece of candy about this time.) Andy went to the rec centre to help light the fireworks while I took off in the car go to Thundering Word's Open Mic of th' Living Dead Celebrities.

Thundering Word is such a wonderful show, mixing music, comedy, poetry and storytelling. A few people dressed up as dead, or not-yet-dead celebrities. There wasn't a big crowd in the house, but those who attended made up an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. RC Weslowski's feature set was strange and wonderful as usual. His spoken word performance is always like my friend Cathy describes martinis, "A little bit yummy and a just the right amount of yukky." Celebrities in attendance included Selina, T Paul Ste.-Marie, Bob Dylan, Theodor Geisel and me, Emily Dickinson. My Emily answered a few questions from the audience about the afterlife, then read a bedtime story, "Goodnight Moon."

By the time I got home, Halloween was almost over. By the time I washed off my makeup and got out of my wig (ouch! wigs do pinch!) it was November.

It was a good Halloween. Like the kids, I'm already thinking about what we'll do next year.

question: trick? or treat?

mompoet - both

Saturday, October 30, 2010

squirmy wormy noodle salad


Recently, I asked a question in my facebook status line: what food scares you? This innocent query drew a healthy bunch of comments, from the earnest "brussels sprouts" to the very creative "snouts and beans" (beans and sauce, with slices of sausage that have nostril holes poked in them). With food, as with most other things, presentation counts.

Something that is normally yummy can be rendered repulsive, by a small change in details, or even a creative name. And vice-versa. When my son was 5 years old, I took him to lunch at a wonton house. The place was crowded, so we shared a table with a Chinese Grandpa, who was sitting by himself. I ordered wonton soup and a plate of chow mein. My son tucked into the chow mein with gusto, but balked at the funny-looking soup. Our table companion noticed this and said to Alex, "You know, those are just Chinese tortellini." Alex took a tentative bite - YUM! Then he slurped down all of the wontons, leaving me the soup broth (he never has been a soup guy.) I thanked the man for his help. He told me that his grandkids are Canadian, and they were convinced to eat wonton soup by the same description.

So when I had to come up with a "hairy, scary and yummy" contribution to our monthly staff potluck lunch this week, I thought about Chinese tortellini. My friend Linda served this once to adults and called it monkey brain stew. But I remembered that my unofficial role in our staff team, when it comes to eating, is vegetable-bringer. You see, I have a nearly pathological fear of potlucks without vegetables. A table groaning with all carbs and protein and desserts makes me run away in fear that even if I eat even a modest selection, I will fall asleep for the rest of the afternoon. I am highly susceptible to the soporific effects of starchy and rich foods, you see. So I always bring vegetables, lots of them, usually a salad, but sometimes something cooked. So I decided to come up with a scary salad.

Colour is (almost) everything when it comes to first impressions, so I went to the veggie store and selected vegetables in Halloween colours:

yellow and orange bell peppers
purple cabbage
red onion
carrots
cucumber

Texture comes second. I know people who can't eat porridge or squash just because of the texture. I dislike mashed potatoes for the same reason, but I do love porridge and squash. Go figure. I decided that a modest proportion of noodles would add the squirmy, wormy texture that I desired in this concoction. I chose the noodles at the top of this list, but you could choose your favourite. Think one part noodles, four parts vegetables, by volume:

fresh Japanese ramen noodles
fresh chow mein noodles
udon noodles
rice stick
vermicelli
soba

You get the idea. You could use fresh or dried, cooked up. The trick is to just barely cook the noodles, because they will soften a bit in the salad.

Finally, the dressing and additions. I'll tell you the basic, then suggest some things you might want to consider, depending on your taste and who will be eating the salad (careful about food allergies, vegetarian commitment, and cultural/religious food restrictions when you bring food to a party).

Basic dressing (with variations):
3 parts canola oil (you could use another kind)
1 part rice wine vinegar (you could use lemon or lime juice, dry wine, sherry, other vinegar)
rooster hot chili sauce to taste (or whatever form of heat you prefer)
soy sauce to taste
a few drops of sesame oil (if nobody is allergic)
chopped fresh ginger
chopped fresh garlic
(you might also add peanut butter or tahini if nobody is allergic)

Additions
tofu, chicken, prawns or fish
cilantro
chopped peanuts
sesame seeds
bean sprouts
scorpions, tarantulas, beetles (oops, I'm getting s-carried away here)

How to make it: Chop and shred the vegetables so they are mostly long and skinny (slaw style). Cook the noodles but not too much. Assemble just enough dressing ingredients in a container with a lid - you'll have to decide how much is just enough to thoroughly moisten all of the salad bits. Toss it together with the veg and noodles. **I like to do this part just before serving, because it tastes best when the flavours are newly combined. You can prepare the veg and the dressing well ahead of time, then toss them together just before you are ready to eat. Add any of the toppings or garnishes that you like to suit your taste, and depending on if it's a side dish or main course.

This salad was devoured at the potluck. I liked it so much that I made it again last night for supper. I was all out of tarantulas, so I served it with sauteed chicken. It is yummy and crunchy, and definitely satisfies a craving for lots of veggies and some chili spice.

question: are you a potluck lover? or do you have secret potluck fears? (or both?)

mompoet - okay with potlucks, as long as I bring vegetables

Thursday, October 28, 2010

hairy scary yummy lunch






The theme for this month's staff potluck was "hairy, scary, tasty finger foods." Here are some of the hairy scary offerings.

  • scary cheesy chili dip with black tortilla chips
  • horrifying hot chicken wings
  • squirmy wormy noodle salad
  • bloody barbeque pork buns
  • chilling cheese and fig platter with bread sticks (aka fingers)
  • creepy pumpkin cheesecake squares with spider web glaze
  • putrid pea soup
  • witch's fingers and bloody eyeball cupcakes
  • (not pictured) baby bat pasta salad and pumpkin muffins with scorpion poop
It was delicious and terrifying!

question: what food scares you?

mompoet - BOOO! (mmm)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

the giant wiener did the trick

I missed hot dog day at work today because I was at a workshop off site. When I got in to the office, the kitchen table ladies were just leaving, with big smiles on their faces. They sold 60 hot dog platters in 30 minutes.

It had to be the giant wiener. I can't think of any other explanation.

question: do you think it was the giant wiener?

mompoet - never underestimate the power of inflatable luncheon meat

safety nerds

On Monday night, my friend Robin and I went to "Documentation Unit Training." The course was offered by the Justice Institute of BC, for Emergency Social Services workers.

We spent a bit more than 3 hours in a room with 15 other emergency social services workers and volunteers, all learning how to correctly review, record and dispatch the paper work generated at a reception centre. (A reception centre is the place that is set up in the case of a major emergency that forces people out of their homes.)

As a part-time duty officer for the City of Burnaby, I'm glad to be getting this training. If there is a forest fire, earthquake, tsunami, river flood, industrial accident, major apartment fire etc., I will be called to help with the reception centre. Now I know I could work in the documentation unit, and get the paperwork mostly right. Throughout the province. There are people like me, trained to respond and set up the stuff that people will need to get through an evacuation. Mostly, it involved getting everyone a place to stay, food to eat and clothing to wear. If needed, it includes helping them re-unite with family members from whom they may have been separated. We also do pet care, in case there are animals evacuated from homes.

These training gatherings are fun and interesting. We hear about the events to which others have been called. There was a volunteer in Monday's course who had responded to the floods on Vancouver Island. The trainer had worked in Kelowna, during the forest fires a couple of summers back. Some have not been called, but remain ready. So far, I have been out on a couple of individual family calls, and have been involved in two very short reception centre activations (just a couple of hours each time, after which residents have been allowed back into their homes).

Emergency workers have file boxes or rolling suitcases filled with forms, manuals, blankets and teddy bears. We use many acronyms that are understood only by us (sometimes). We get excited when we hear sirens. When we see house fires and disasters on the news, we think of the victims, but also the responders. We wear vests and ID tags. If you need us, we will wake up in the middle of the night and give you a cup of coffee and a cookie, and figure out what we can do to make you comfortable and safe while you are out of your house.

We are safety nerds. We are ready and waiting.

question: did you ever have to get out of your house?

mompoet - thankful for safety nerds

Sunday, October 24, 2010

dressing up for halloween

I was downtown yesterday, so I visited Dressew where you can buy everything you could possibly ever need for sewing, and also costumes. Just before Halloween, Dressew is a very busy place. The costume area is expanded, and people line up outside the door of this huge store, to take their turn looking at wigs, costumes, hats and other accessories, as well as all manor of party favours and Halloween decor.

I needed a new wig for my dead Emily Dickinson costume, and also some face paint to achieve the "dead" effect. I got my errands done in just a few minutes, but could not resist browsing the abundance of Halloween finery available. The aisles were packed with shoppers, and the mood was jubilant. Everywhere, people were trying on hats and wigs for one another, holding masks up to their faces and hooting with laughter at their amazing finds.

I was delighted by a huge rack of tails. Just tails. All kinds, your choice. I flinched at a display of open cartons, filled with severed body parts, pale and bloody, each packaged in a meat tray and shrink wrap, neatly labeled with "best before" dates. There are more clown noses, handcuffs, false eyelashes, animal ears and rubber wounds than you can shake a plastic sword at. You can buy fake tattoo sleeves, beards, mustaches, eyebrows and warts.

I walked around the display racks of complete costume packages. These are one-stop solutions for most typical disguise-seekers, easy if not original or of particularly good quality. I was dismayed to see that sexy-cute is still the predominant motif in women's costumes, and scary-gross the predominant one in men's. Just about any woman's costume you can think of is available with a very short skirt and a skimpy top: sexy pilgrim, sexy nun, sexy nurse, even "racy red riding hood," and "poca-hottie" . There are no similar skimpy male costumes to be found. C'mon, where is "macho mailman," "bare-ass batman," or "pinch my gorilla?" If the selection of costumes available for sale is any indication, men what to dress up as menacing or funny (don't get me started on the "Deluxe Fart-O-Meter" costume). Women want to dress up a sexpots.

Over the years, I have mostly made my own costumes, or at least assembled them myself from bits and pieces bought and borrowed. I can remember only one overtly sexy effort, the year I dressed as a bunny for my waitressing job. It wasn't crazy-sexy. I wore a decent pink dance leotard and white opaque tights, bunny ears and tail, and flat shoes. I was hauling trays of lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs to people's tables, after all, and it was a family restaurant.

Other years I have dressed up as a kangaroo, a clown, a nerd, Marcel Marceau, a scary phys. ed. teacher, a pirate, and a tub - that with my friends: the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker - RUB A DUB! This year I will re-use my dead Emily Dickinson outfit for The Open Mic of th' Living Dead. I think it's fun to transform myself into someone else for just a short time. I'd rather it be fun than sexy any day.

This Halloween, I hope to see imagination and a sense of fun in the costumes worn by adults dressing up. I hope I don't see too many princesses who forgot to put their pants on, and I would be tickled to encounter a cowboy in short shorts, just for a change of balance. I hope that I am not confronted by a walking Deluxe Fart-O-Meter!

question: do you dress up for Halloween?

mompoet - trick-or-treat!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

here I am at work, walking around with a giant inflatable wiener hanging around my neck to promote the seniors' hot dog lunch next week


question: what's the silliest thing you did at work this week?

mompoet - this one definitely had all of the ladies giggling

Friday, October 22, 2010

performance anxiety

One of my typical anxious dreams is "I am in a play. It's opening night. I do not know my lines, my blocking, the songs I am supposed to sing, or my choreography." Everyone else has been rehearsing for weeks. I just showed up. I have to go on. I am embarrassed.

The night before last, I had a variation on this one. I dreamed I was at the poetry reading where I am scheduled to feature on Sunday. The cozy bookshop transformed itself in the dream to a large lecture hall at a university. It was a mirror-image inside-outside space, with tiered seats on the outside of the building, facing away from the stage, a door at the top, through which you could pass to the interior of the place, and seats tiered down inside to the stage. I arrived and looked around the venue, and realised there was room for several hundred people, and that I didn't know how I could be seen or heard by the ones who sat outside and the ones who sat inside. The organizers of the show were cheerful about it. "Just walk upstairs and outside, then back inside while you recite your poetry. Keep moving and everyone will see you." About that time, they also asked me to host the show, and to set up the lights and sound equipment in this monstrous inside-outside venue because "we are poets and we don't have any tech people."

So now I'm running around looking for a wireless microphone and trying to figure out a sound board and light panel, and people are showing up and wanting to sign up for the open mic, and I don't have a pen or paper, and they don't either. The organizers have neatly disappeared, and I'm not even sure what time the show is going to begin. Then this hairy guy collars me and tries to convince me that he needs to read his thesis, a three act play, during the open mic because "plays are the purest form of poetry, man."

Luckily, my alarm went off and I woke up.

I know that Sunday's reading at Poetic Justice will be nothing like this. But isn't it interesting how we rehearse for the worst possible scenarios when we dream? I don't often have bad dreams or nightmares. When I do, they are like this.

I also dream about missing trains. In fact, last night I dreamed I was on a train with a little girl. We were on the wrong car to get to our destination and the train wasn't going to stop for anything. So we were walking to the end of each car and climbing out the back window and into the next car along. I was conscious of protecting the child, so I handed her to a passenger in the next car, then climbed out and over to follow her. It wasn't frightening, more like, "Oops, isn't that funny! We need to get to the back of the train. Let's climb through the windows."

question: what do you dream when you are wondering what something will be like?

mompoet - sleeping imagination

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

time has its own way of showing what's important

Twice this week, I have been reminded that time is precious, especially when you give it to someone else. In both cases, I started out tired and cranky about being delayed finishing work and getting out the door. In both cases I learned that the inconvenience is minor, compared to the reward.

By day's end Monday, I couldn't wait to get home. I had awakened at 5am and started work at 7am to finish a project before driving to a 9:30am meeting (Who plans meetings at 9:30 on a Monday?) I had squeezed a dentist appointment into my lunch break and finally found time to eat lunch at 3. By 4:45, I could think of nothing but, "I should have left half an hour ago!"

At the rec centre where I work all of the seniors had gone home and the main office was closed. Only a few people drifted through the lobby past my office doorway, on their way to the library. As I sat at my desk, trying to take care of a few inescapable tasks, and make brief notes of the stuff I needed to tackle the next day, there was a tap at my door.

It was Henry. He's one of our seniors, who comes with his wife to play bridge once a week. He asked me when he could ask the ladies who make the crafts to take something from the display case so he could come back tomorrow and buy it from them. I told him I could get whatever he wants, and hold it for him until he could come back to pay for it. He replied that he had money now. He hadn't known that I could get something for him. Would I possibly get a pair of baby boots out of the case? Of course I would.

We walked down the hall and he waited, while I got the keys and money pouch out of the safe, and unlocked the display case. Henry wanted a tiny pair of blue knit baby boots. I asked him if he was expecting a grandchild. Of course he was. It will be Henry and his wife's first grandchild. I asked him if he knew for sure he needed blue boots and he beamed, yes, for sure. We chatted for a few minutes about his son and daughter in law, who live in Calgary, how excited everyone is for the birth, and Henry and his wife's plans to visit their children and grandson after the birth. He paid me $4. I locked the display case and returned the keys and pouch to the safe and said good-bye and congratulations. I smiled for about half an hour after that, and was not in nearly as much of a rush to finish up and leave.

Today I was wiped out, after a crazy busy day, including a special event for 50 new members and the packing up of everything we need for the next few days from a room that will be under construction for the next few days. Again, I was sitting at my desk, past time to go home, still grabbing a few things that couldn't wait until tomorrow, and getting them done. Again, there was a tap at my door. Nina was there.

Nina is a lovely lady who plays bridge and snooker at the rec centre. When I first met her, she spoke barely any English, or was too shy to speak barely anything, I'm not sure which. Over the 3 years I have known her she has warmed up a bit. She is still very quiet, but with a radiant smile whenever we greet one another in the hallway or the snooker room. This time she spoke, and asked me if I had seen a bag "with vegetables" in the lobby. It seems that she had left her grocery bag in the lobby by accident some time ago, and it had disappeared.

The upper office was closed so I asked her if she had checked at the downstairs desk, where we keep lost and found items. She shrugged, smiled and walked away. I thought to myself, "It's just a bag of vegetables, but that's probably the food that Nina was planning to cook for supper." I got up, locked my office and went downstairs to see if I could help her. I couldn't find her, so I asked at the desk. Nobody had turned in a bag of vegetables. Nobody had seen Nina. I came back upstairs, and there was Nina again, talking to our afternoon janitor, who was helping her look for the vegetables. She suggested that they might have been put away in the staffroom refrigerator.

I asked Nina to come with me, and we walked over to the office. I told her to please wait, I'll look for the vegetables in the office, and if they're not there, we'll check the fridge. Sure enough, there was a bag of vegetables on top of the filing cabinet. (who puts vegetables on the filing cabinet?) "Oh! Nina!" called, "I see a zucchini! broccoli!" The vegetables were hers, of course, and she was visibly relieved. For the first time today I was met with her beaming smile. I wished her a good supper and a nice evening and she left, with her vegetables.

Sometimes, when I'm stuck thinking that I'm swimming upstream, someone comes along who asks me to pause in a way that I just can't decline. I resolve to pay more attention to these situations, and find the gift that comes with them. A delay is okay, and sometimes provides a much needed re-set when I need it.

question: have you stopped to smell the speed bumps lately?

mompoet - still learning

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

more about tomatoes

Last night, I decided to make some soup, to use up about 2 pounds of tomatoes from our garden that were RIPE RIGHT NOW!

I found a very simple recipe in Soup Suppers by Arthur Schwartz. I use this book more for the plum cake recipe than for the soups, but I'll have to cook some more of the soups. They are good.

This recipe is so simple, that I set it up, went upstairs to colour my hair, came downstairs half an hour later and completed the soup. Then I sat in my pajamas and had a delicious cup of tomato soup. Here's my my shorthand, smaller batch version of the recipe.

Chunk up 2 pounds of tomatoes and one small onion. Put them into a pot with about 1/4 tsp of salt. Cover and simmer over low heat. Stir them a couple of times until the liquid starts to come out, then you can leave them covered and simmering for half an hour.

After half an hour, process the tomatoes through a food mill. I happen to have a food mill that Andy's mom used to use to make applesauce. It's different from using a blender or food processor, because it keeps most of the seeds and tomato skin from going into the soup.

The result is a yummy, yummy, pure simple tomato soup. Arthur Schwartz suggests all kinds of herbs, croutons, sour cream, even a bit of butter to garnish the soup. I will leave that up to your imagination. Plain and simple is good too.

question: are you cooking with the bounty of the season?

mompoet - mmmm, soup

Sunday, October 17, 2010

tomatoes



I took most of the remaining tomatoes off of the vines in our garden today. It's dipping to frosty cold at night now, and I thought it's time for them to come inside. I have left just a few cherry tomatoes on the plant on our deck. One vine is clinging to the outside of the patio window, which is not double glass, so poorly insulated. I think this last vine may be able to hold on with the warmth that must surely transfer to it from inside the house.

The rest of the tomatoes are in a bowl on the dining room table (the red ones) and in a shallow pan nearby (the green ones). I am eating lots of tomatoes, and serving them to those in my family who eat tomatoes. They are very good.

The three types of tomatoes that we grew this summer are a cherry tomato variety called "Gardener's Delight," something called "Patio Roma" and some "Manitoba." They are very different in size, shape, flavour and texture. The cherries are my favourite - very juicy and tangy-sweet. The Romas are wonderfully firm and nice for slicing, with good tomatoe-y flavour. The Manitobas are okay. I think I won't grow them again next summer, but will try another kind instead. We chose the Manitobas because they were advertised as early-ripening. They ripened after the Cherries and Romas.

One of my favourite ways to serve fresh tomatoes is to slice them and dress them lightly with a shaken-up mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tomatoes are best served at room temperature. These tomatoes are wonderful.

In all, I think we harvested over 200 tomatoes this summer. It was nice to eat them as they ripened, so I don't have to preserve a whole bunch all at once. I like them best fresh. I think I will make tomato soup when the green ones ripen.

question: do you say tomato?

mompoet - tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

delight in the world

On the way to the skytrain station today, the 97 bus was filled with Justin Biebers. I saw three 16 year old Korean Justin Biebers, each one with a beautiful long-haired girlfriend. All 6, Biebers and GFs were wearing metal frame glasses. A 14 year old Justin Bieber sat across from me, also with a pretty girl. At the back of the bus, a 39 year old wanna-Bieber looked slightly uncomfortable in skinny leg jeans and New Balance training shoes. This quasi-Bieber was unaccompanied. At the KY market an octogenarian Justin Bieber got on the bus with two other old guys who looked more like Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, and an old woman pushing a baby stroller with a bag of cantaloupes in it, instead of a baby. None of the cantaloupes resembled Justin Bieber. When I got off the bus, I noticed that the driver was also Justin Bieber, wearing a transit uniform and fingerless gloves.

This, however was not the source of my delight.

Later in the day, on the way home from the sytrain, there were no Justin Biebers on the C24. Instead, in the front passenger seat of the bus was a Dad, a baby in a front pack, and a very tiny 3 year old girl with white blonde hair. While we waited for the bus to leave, the little girl heard the music playing on the bus radio. She said that she wanted to dance. The very nice driver told her that she could dance, but she was too shy. The very nice driver offered to get off the bus and not watch, so the little girl could dance. He got off the bus and stood outside while she began a crazy, happy little girl dance in the front of the bus. The driver began a crazy, happy bus driver dance out on the sidewalk near the bus. The little girl saw him and laughed. Everyone on the bus was smiling.

When it was time to for the bus to leave the station, the little girl sat down with her Dad. The bus driver chatted with them about where they were going (to visit Grandma in Port Moody). As the bus got underway, the driver asked the little girl if she would like to turn the light on inside the bus. He told her to clap, because that would make the light turn on. She clapped, and the light came on. She clapped again, and the light turned off. The little girl laughed, and played with the bus driver, turning off his light to trick him, and obliging by turning it back on when he asked. We arrived at their bus stop, and the nice driver asked the little girl to push the button to open the door. She pushed the button, and the door opened. The little girl, Dad and baby left the bus. "Good-bye! Have a nice time at Grandma's!" the bus driver called as they left. Everyone on the bus was smiling.

question: did you find a moment of delight today?

mompoet - blessed to find myself in places where delight intersects with everyday life

Saturday, October 16, 2010

tender cookies for a weary heart

For as long as I can remember, I have baked cookies. My very first baking effort was "Brown Sugar Cookies," from a recipe my Mom wrote out on an index card. I was just old enough to read, so 5 or 6 years old. I was not tall enough to work at the kitchen counter, so Mom set up the kitchen step stool. I put the bowl on the seat and the recipe on the top step. Mom lined up the ingredients on the counter, except for the flour, which was stored in "the flour bin" on the kitchen floor. Mom baked all of the family's bread, so we bought the 10kg bags (or whatever the Imperial equivalent was at the time). We were a baking family. I added my cookie baking to Mom's bread making. Soon I learned to bake bread too, and I branched out to cakes, pies and many other treats, causing us to buy even more flour. Cookies have always been my mainstay, though, and I have a few favourites that I rotate.

This recipe has been taken over by Fiona. She's in grade 12, and super busy with school and other activities. Sometimes when I'm heading up to bed around 10 or 11, she's just taking out the mixing bowls and preparing to bake a batch of cookies. I can understand totally what she's doing. Baking cookies is a calming activity. When life's demands are overwhelming, you can take 30 minutes to bake up a batch of sweet, golden treats to share with people you love. It's totally predictable and gratifying, an oasis of warmth and peace in the middle of chaos. Here are the chocolate chip cookies that got me through high school and university, with Fiona's adaptation noted:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2/3 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour (I use white, Fiona uses whole wheat - both are good)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugars. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Dump the dry ingredients on top, including the chocolate chips, and stir them in, just until fully combined. Don't overmix. Nobody likes tough cookies, and overmixing will toughen them.

Drop the very soft dough by spoonfuls onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet. You can make these big or small. Just leave room for them to spread out as they bake. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

The most important thing about these cookies is to take them out of the oven soon enough. You want them just a bit golden at the edges, indicating that they are done on the bottom, but not golden or brown on top. Catching them in time ensures nice, soft, chewy cookies. Actual baking time will vary depending on the pans you use, and the behaviour of your oven.

Remove the cookies from the pan immediately to a baking rack to cool.

Make 20-48 cookies, depending on the size. The recipe doubles, triples etc. easily if you want to make more. Also, they freeze well, but beware of how delicious they are frozen. You may think there are lots in the freezer, only to find that the cookie monsters in your house have been raiding your supply.

These cookies are so good, honestly, people have asked me to marry and or/or adopt them, just so they could be assured of receiving more cookies. Interestingly, Andy has never like them. They're too sweet for him, and he doesn't like the dark chocolate of chocolate chips. Oh well, I married him anyway.

The other recipe that I have to share with you is one for oatmeal cookies. These are still my specialty. Most oatmeal cookies I have tried are kind of bland, even if they include spices like cinnamon and cloves. This recipe incorporates orange juice and orange peel, which makes them zesty. The recipe is gi-nourmous, so you could cut it in half if you don't want enough to feed an army. They also freeze well.

Orangey Oatmeal Cookies with Apricots and Cranberries

1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup orange juice (you can use frozen orange juice concentrate, undiluted, for a more vibrant orange flavour)
zest of one orange, chopped or shredded finely
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant oats)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried apricots, chopped into chunks

Start with a really big mixing bowl or you will wish you had. Cream the butter and sugars. Stir in the eggs, vanilla, orange juice and orange zest. Dump the dry ingredients and fruit on top of the wet mixture then stir in until just combined.

Drop the dough (also very soft) by spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until golden around the edges but not brown on top. Transfer to a rack to cool. Makes 1 ton of cookies.

You can play around with the addition of various fruits, nuts, even chocolate chips if you like. Chocolate and orange are quite nice together. I never put chocolate in these, because they are the ones that Andy loves, and I want to make sure that every last one of them is delicious to him. That's why he married me.

Guess what? We have a flour bin at home, 3 actually: one for white flour, one for whole wheat, and one for sugar. We are a baking family.

If you are feeling stressed, try baking some cookies. If you're like Fiona and me, you will definitely feel better for it.

question: do you bake?

mompoet - nourish yourself and those around you, with both food and soothing activity.

invitation

Poetic Justice
Sunday October 24
4-6pm
Renaissance Books
43 6th Street New Westminster (close to the Columbia St Skytrain Station)

I have a 30 minute set of poems and Q and A, then there's an open
mic, so bring some of your own work if you would like to read.

There's an espresso bar in the store if you want something to perk
you up. Honestly, my poetry will be better than that pun.

question: what perks you up?

mompoet - picking some poetry for perking

Thursday, October 14, 2010

poems, books, performances

For the past 10 years I have been a contributor to Shoreline Writers' Society's annual chapbook. Our 11th book with be out this December. I hope to contribute an essay about food.

I have also been working on a chapbook of my own, entitled Swirl. It should be ready some time in November, maybe as a birthday present for me to give to my friends.

On October 24, I will be feature poet at Poetic Justice at Renaissance Books Store in New Westminster. It's 4-6pm. I'm planning to recite a couple of slam poems, and some of the quieter kind too. Unfortunately, Swirl and the Shoreline chappy (what we call it before it's named) won't be ready for this day.

On October 31 there's the Open Mic of th' Living Dead Celebrities at Thundering Word. I will be sure to be there. Just have to work up some way for dead Emily Dickinson to break out of her shell. Last year I was Lorenz Hart, and people didn't really get it, but that's okay, I think maybe that's just the way it was for Lorenz Hart.

I have also been dead Marcel Marceau. That went over very well. Poets have this love-hate thing about mimes.

I hope you'll come to Poetic Justice. There's an open mic. I'll be there this Sunday (the 17th) to check it out, being a new series and venue.

question: what's creative where you are?

mompoet - thinking about poems and books and performances