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


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).

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.

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.

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 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