Wednesday, June 29, 2011

wave at the bus

question: do you wave when your kids leave for school?

mompoet - can't wait to read the blog, starting at day one and working all the way up to day 170

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

fruit platter

Fiona requested that I bring our family's special celebratory fruit explosion to the parents and grads party on Saturday afternoon. While we waited for the limousine to arrive we snapped photos, chatted with parents we've known since middle school and watched the grads pin on boutonnieres and corsages, blow bubbles, eat cupcakes and ham it up for the cameras.

The watermelon explosion was decorative, tasty, and evocative of the jumble-bang of emotions that accompany such milestones as the grad dinner dance for parents like me. I hope you like the photo-explanation of how to make one of these big food sculptures. I have no explanation for how to make a child so wondrous as ours. We just got lucky, I guess.

question: when your heart bursts with love and pride and bittersweet prickly longing, what fruit would tell the story?

mompoet - melonblueberrystrawberryBOOM!


Saturday night was Grad Dinner Dance, otherwise known as prom, otherwise known and the culmination of 13 years of going to school and now it's over and we're going to have a very wonderful and fancy party.

Here are a couple of photos of the part of the celebration where parents were welcome. Fiona says she had a wonderful night. She got home about 6 in the morning. I think she will have happy memories for a long time.

question: how do children grow into adults so quickly?

mompoet - I blinked my eyes and it just happened

Sunday, June 19, 2011

what we carry, what we keep

I'm not very sentimental about "stuff." I like to keep memories, photographs, written descriptions, stories to tell again and again, but not so much souvenirs, certificates or other memorabilia. I don't even have my high school yearbooks any more. That's how little I feel like keeping "stuff."

But when my Dad emailed me to tell me he was going to let go of his old daypack, I knew that I wanted to have it. Here's the email he sent me, my sister and my niece a couple of months ago:

My ancient Millet day pack The lightweight waist strap (not heavy-duty enough to allow for significant transfer of weight from shoulders to hips) has come loose where it was repair-sewn to own side of the pack, and its mirror image is about to come loose where it too was repair-sewn a while ago. Your mother has expressed extreme disinterest in fighting with it any more. So I went to MEC and paid $40 and bought a new pack which is fine and should last another 40 years.

The old pack is, except for that strap, durable as hell, as evidenced by the fact that I got it in I think 1969. I think I paid nearly as much for it as for the new one, and those were 1969 US dollars (at REI in Seattle). If I had a dime for every circuit it has made of Burnaby Lake, never mind where else it has gone, I probably could have paid for the new pack. It has a top flap with zipper pocket where I kept useful things one might want in a hurry like toilet paper and soap, or, on those rare days that it was sunny enough to warrant taking them, my sunglasses. The main part of the pack is just one huge cavity, big enough for my backpacker's Coleman stove, two or three 1 litre Nalgene water bottles, lunch, and lots of clothing for warmth and rain protection. I have gone on one overnight fast-and-light trip using it (slept in my down parka and down pants, no sleeping bag or tent). It has attachment points for crampons and for an ice axe.

If you want the thing it's yours. I could give suggestions for how you might be able to repair the waist strap attachment, though your mother has doubts that my ideas will work. Or you could just snip off the remaining strap; as I said, the strap provides very little transfer of weight away from the shoulders so its main use is stabilization, to keep the thing from swaying from side to side.

It's ugly and dirty and smelly; the dirty and smelly can be fixed, but after over 40 years of use, you're stuck with the ugly. Let me know if you (or one of your kids) want it.


I picked the pack up from my parents' house and tossed it in my closet. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it. I just didn't want it to be thrown away. This is the pack that my Dad has always worn when we've gone for hikes, from the time I was a little girl. A week or so after I brought it home, Fiona was looking for a prop for one of her students' plays. She needed something that looked like an old-fashioned parachute pack. Presto! The day pack had its stage debut, looking very much like a parachute for a nefarious cat in the musical Honk. After that it went back into the closet.

I decided to take it out today for Father's Day. Dad's and my tradition is to go for a "sushi walk," partway around Burnaby Lake. We stop at Piper Spit for lunch. I bring sushi. Dad brings his Coleman stove and makes miso soup and tea. We enjoy some time together in a beautiful place, with a yummy lunch, and this time, memories of a good old daypack and all of the places it has been.

So I guess I am sometimes sentimental about "stuff," when it's the right stuff, that is.

question: do you have anything that you like to hang on to?

mompoet - good old red daypack

Saturday, June 18, 2011

one more thing

My friend Irene send me an email the evening after the riot. Here's what she said about something that happened earlier that day:

I was in to buy some Red Rose tea from Fred at the Minimart . (I was thinking people are just going about their business and nobody cares) Waiting by the counter for Fred to wait on a woman, I said in a kidding voice to the young guy standing next to me, something like, "Well I guess you had fun tearing up the place downtown last night." He didn't laugh but started talking right away about how what they did made him feel ashamed. The woman started talking too and Fred was REALLY mad. He said I bet they just get a slap on the wrist. He said they should come from places where the cops just go bang bang and you're dead. He's from Iran. Everybody seemed to have it on there minds but people don't seen to bring these things up. I came to the conclusion that all the people "going about their business," have it very much on their minds. Somehow that was a relief to know that.

question: what do you think about when you are going about your business?

mompoet - we should talk to our friends

Friday, June 17, 2011

what if we don't win?

As I walked home from work Wednesday, I wondered about that. What if we didn't win the Stanley Cup? Would people be able to manage their disappointment? We all found out on Wednesday evening as events unfolded. Cars burned. Stores were looted. Several thousand people participated, to a greater or lesser extent, in a awful outpouring of wild, destructive anger. At home, we watched our televisions with mounting dismay, disappointment, embarrassment. We had all hoped that the Olympics had taught our city how to manage a big street party. We wondered, "If the Americans had won the Olympic gold medal hockey game, would this would have happened then?"

I fell asleep Wednesday feeling changed. Sure, the excitement of the buildup through the hockey playoffs was gone, replaced with disappointment and resignation. We did lose, after all. But the stronger feeling was an overwhelming sickness about humanity. How could we be so awful and uncontrolled? How could the good people - enforcers and bystanders - not have prevailed? How could anyone commit such acts boldly, cheerfully almost, in full view of video cameras? I thought of images of young men and women not so very different from my own kids. The news reporters said that some had been planning the riot before they came downtown earlier in the day, but there were lots of ordinary looking people. They looked like people who had just showed up and joined in. They were throwing heavy objects through store windows, running inside and grabbing makeup and mannequins, dancing crazy dances of rage and alienation, or slinking out with proud/sheepish mix-mash looks on their faces.

Thursday morning I woke up numb and sad. "We'll get over this," I thought. But it will take a long time. "What will people think of us? What will we think of us?" I didn't fully realise how sad and upset I was until I heard the news on the radio on my way in to work. Thousands of people had signed up on Facebook, and were coming downtown to help clean up the city, wear the Canucks colours in pride not retaliation, do acts of goodness and contrition. I sat in the parking lot at my work and cried in the car.

All day we went through our routines, the same but somehow more subdued and unsettled. One of my co-workers came in a little late to work. She had driven downtown to help pick up trash before coming in to the office. The seniors at the rec centre talked about fear and shame. Was it safe to go downtown? Who could have done this and what did we do wrong not to stop it? We talked about the cleanup too. This helped everyone feel better. Later at home, I talked with my family about it and we absorbed the images on the news.

Citizens with rubber gloves and brooms and garbage bags from home. Messages of hope and healing inscribed on the plywood covering a store's busted out windows. May all of these signify a power greater than that wielded by the car burners and store looters on Wednesday evening. In every crowd, there are instigators, eggers-on, observer and recorders. Let's find our places in our own mob of kindness and rightness, get on with business as usual, and know that we are changed by this. It's our choice how so. I hope it's for the good.

question - what's your part?

mompoet - hugging my children and talking about it with my friends


Fiona told me that she and her friend Sonora have always wanted to have "a sleepover on a school night," since middle school even. Today is the last full day of high school classes for them, ever. So last night, Sonora slept over. They made popcorn and watched a movie. I baked brownies for them, and left them sleeping on the living room floor. So they had their school night sleepover. Just in time.

question: what did you do just before time ran out?

mompoet - watching the passage

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

vegetable deliciousness

My friend Julie (aka Cathy) posted a link to my facebook site. Julie and I (aka Julia) like to cook French food together at our annual women's weekend in September. I looked at the recipe and just could not wait until September. In fact, I thought about it all day at work. By break time I was resolved to try it right away so I ran across the street to the amazing Joe's produce store and picked up the few simple ingredients. I carried them home in my backpack and made the vegetable tian for supper when I got home. It is very nice.

question: do you ever obsess about a food?

mompoet - I love food

Monday, June 13, 2011

still working on the crow situation

Baby Crow (it appears that there is just one) perched on the fence right beside the walkway for a while on Friday, causing Mama and Papa Crow to intensify their aerial attacks on innocent passers-by. Our boss, Cindy, did some research on crow families, and found out that parent crows typically attack from behind, and that an umbrella is one good defense. Dave made a new sign, accordingly. I like the image that he borrowed from Alfred Hitchcock's movie.

On Saturday I went into the rec centre for a workout. Baby Crow is flying farther, so the trio was at another corner of the building when I got out of my car. I could hear a big commotion, but it was far enough away that I felt safe to walk into the building without my umbrella.

question: how long does this last?

mompoet - CAW!

Friday, June 10, 2011

corvids overhead

Outside of the rec centre where I work, at the end of the parking lot where it meets the walkway to the entry door, two crows have nested in a tree and produced a bunch of baby crows. Yesterday, it was time for the babies to learn to fly. Mid-morning found them out of the nest, lurching, flapping and popping around in some undergrowth below a tall cedar tree. Mama and Papa Crow alternated flapping down in the bush with the babies and perching on low-hanging branches just overhead. Whenever a two-legged creature walked past the area of the baby crow flight training, Mama and Papa would shout caws of warning, "Get away!" "Don't mess with our babies!" "Can't you see they are learning to fly?" If the two-legged creature persisted in walking from the parking lot towards the pathway that goes to the entry door of the building, Mama and Papa crow flew through the air and dive-bombed the pedestrian(s). This included people like me (direct hit to the right shoulder by Papa - I think), senior citizens using walkers and canes, and Moms with small children and babies. Don't think you can fool a crow with a baby stroller. Mama and Papa Crow know that two-leggers feed mashed crow to their babies. Correction: mashed baby crow.

So what do you do? One man stood in the middle of the mayhem, waving his arms and yelling back at the yelling crows to go away. This did not work.

Since it it the rec centre, and a public place, and safety is important, my co-worker Dave was charged with putting up a sign to at least warn people of the hazard of passing through the crow family's flying school area. Dave showed me his first draft. It said, "Attention Patrons: Please make room for baby crows." I told him I thought that was a bit obscure and did not actually address our purpose of a warning sign. It sounded more like one of those signs on the bus, admonishing people to give up the seats near the front door to elderly passengers and people with disabilities.

Dave offered to let me make a sign. I printed out my version that said "LOOK OUT for crows protecting their babies." Dave suggested "LOOK OUT for crows, as they are protecting their babies." I told him that was too many words. Dave conceded and used my wording on several copies which he printed out and posted in various places adjacent to the parking lot. My favourite was on a sign post just at the end of the lot, directly under the nest tree and only a few feet with from underbrush where the babies were hopping and flapping. When people stopped to read the sign, they stood directly between Mama Crow's low hanging brand and Papa Crow's low hanging branch. It think it actually increased the number of direct hits by crows to people.

I hope those babies learn fast. That was enough excitement for one day.

question: what's growing in your neighbourhood?

mompoet - witnessing the fierce humour of nature

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

unexpected party

It's the end of the program year at the seniors' recreation center where I work. Groups and courses are winding down. We'll still have things happening over the summer, but several of our activities are taking a break for summer, to make room for the children's day camps that call our facility home in July and August.

The English as a Second Language students and teachers organized a party on Tuesday. I knew they were going to do this, and I expected to stop in and share greetings and best wishes. I didn't know that I would be given a place at the table and included in the festivities.

This had to be the most unusual and delightful surprise. We joined the group in singing songs in English and Chinese (well, we hummed along to the Chinese), and my co-worker Linda and I were called upon to make speeches (easy) and to sing songs for the group (not quite so easy). Then we all played a game. We had to pass a ball around from person to person at the tables. When the music stopped, the person holding the ball had to stand up and answer a riddle. The Chinese seniors heard and answered their riddles in Mandarin. Linda and I received translations, and tried to understand well enough to make a guess. Of course Peter, one of the teachers, made sure each of us received the coveted ball, so we had our turns. I could not make out what the riddle was - something about skin, hair and float, with lots of pointing to my arm. I guessed, "apple?" NO! with lots of laughter. "Say comb," Dina, the leader of the group told me. "Okay, comb?" YES! and more laughter. I won a pair of rubber gloves with fancy cuffs. Then I had to sing, or dance or do an act. So I told the story of Mr. Wiggle and Mr. Waggle, to save them listening to me singing again. I think the seniors like it.

We had lovely snacks, including some steamed buns with fish in the middle that Dina made for us at her home. We thanked everyone for inviting us, and were thanked by everyone. It was a lovely surprise.

question: what delights have surprised you recently?

mompoet - "banana?"

Sunday, June 05, 2011

my day so far

Waking to a room filled with sunshine and happy remembering of a good night out with friends and our team winning the hockey game. Springing out of bed to prepare coffee and enjoy apple, nectarine, yogurt and the granola that I made last night. Emails, facebook, cutting up a crusty loaf for communion bread. I leave early for church, knowing I have to pick up a round loaf for the communion service (none at Extra Foods yesterday). On the way, I realise I have left behind the juice, so I go to Thrifty's where I know I will find both bread and juice. Outside Thrifty's a rack of garden plants, including some gangly gallon tomato plants for just $3.99. I choose one and scoot into the store. The tomato rides in the pull-along plastic basket and I clutch the bread of life under one arm. Why is it always so hard to spot plain old Welch's? Cup of blessing snugs up in the rolling basket beside the gangly tomato. In the lineup a man is juggling a clutch of helium balloons and a bunch of things for the birthday party. His cellphone rings, sending him back up the aisle for a few additional items. The cashier secures his balloons to the checkstand for the time being.

It's beautiful out. People cruise the sidewalks in shorts and sundresses. Lots of dogs, kids, sunglasses, flip flops. Someone turned on the switch for summer, and we are ready. I take my tomato plant into the church and leave it in the lounge, to stay cool. I am greeted by the early-arrivers who are here to set up for the service. Svend is making coffee, Pat is getting the sound system working. James is plugging in the laptop. Julie greets readers. Now I'm taking out the ewer and chalice and getting Julie's special chalice from her office. Its earthy style belies an incredible lightness - must be porcelain. The bread goes onto clean white cloths on shining platters, juice goes into the ewer, with leftover to the kitchen for the kids to drink at coffee time.

Amy is leading a quick choir practice before the service. The singers sound wonderful. We are indeed a small but mighty community at worship. I finish setting out the elements on the altar table and go to set up the sandwich offering basket for people to see as they arrive for the service. Friends arrive and greet one another. I check in with Julie about the reading she's asked me to do.

At the start of the service we have announcements. I stand up and ask if anyone would be willing to miss Wednesday's hockey game to make sandwiches. Lots of laughter, and I know we'll always have enough people and enough food to make 100 sandwiches. Next, the lighting of the Christ candle. Jacqueline, Leigh Anne and one sweet little girl light the candle together. Funny how a girl can look like a tiny fairy princes, but jump down from the altar platform with the weight of an elephant and sprint like a rabbit back to her pew.

After the service and coffee time I drive home. My flip flops from last night's party are outside my front door, left there kindly by hosts Doris and Dave. How did I come home last night without my outdoor shoes? Inside, the kids are up. Alex's playoff beard is really beginning to look like a beard. Andy has already left for a day at the beach. Fiona's friend Natasha is visiting for the day. They are doing all of their favourite things from past years, except now Fiona can drive them both to the store when they realise we are out of mac and cheese. Jesse is outside with mom Kirsi, packing his gear into her truck for the grad camping trip. He says that prom and aftergrad were a lot of fun. Bowen comes out of his front door to ask his mom for help with his costume. I think it's a ninja. Chris says it's Darth Vader. Rhonda corrects us, it's batman. Bowen, five years old, specifies "Night Time Batman." He puts on the mask and I can see, it is indeed.

I make a big salad and a cup of coffee, grab Saturday's paper and head for the porch. Sunday in the almost summer, pretty sweet, so far...

question: what are you doing today?

mompoet - blessed

Thursday, June 02, 2011

music night

Last night I attended the music concert at Fiona's school. Despite it being Game 1 of the Stanley Cup hockey finals, the theatre was packed with friends and family. We heard music played by two concert bands, an orchestra, a strings group, and two jazz bands. The concert choir and vocal jazz group sang.

Between performances, two of the music students gave us updates on the progress of the hockey game. At intermission they announced that our Vancouver Canucks won the game, beating Boston 1-0 in the final half-minute of play. HOORAY!

The musical performances were excellent. Each concert band had about 60 students in it. The two music teachers observed that participation in music programs usually drops off when students reach their senior year, but there has been a steady increase in participation by Grade 12 students over the past few years. When the seniors lined up on the stage at the end of the evening to be honoured, they filled the stage from end to end. And from the number of grade 11 students called up for awards, it looks like there will be an even bigger crowd next year!

The evening was a long one, finishing at 10:30. I left with Fiona, knowing that's our last school music concert. What an exciting time it has been, seeing these students from middle school up to graduation. Some will continue their music studies in university. Others will go on to other things. It was very special to be with them all for an evening of music and celebration.

question: did you play in the school band? sing in the choir?

mompoet - glad for the music and the students and teachers who make it