Tuesday, December 25, 2012

merry christmas to all

It's Christmas morning and I'm warm and happy, relaxing with my family at home. We ate our traditional breakfast of croissants and home made strawberry jam, and opened the few presents we have under the tree. Now that the kids are grown up, we don't have a lot of presents, preferring to direct our giving to charities that are important to us. Alex's Christmas gift was a new windshield for his car, when the old one cracked two weeks before Christmas. Fiona's was a much-needed new pair of dancing shoes for school. We will open our stockings later today with my parents, when we go to their place for supper.

The lead-up to Christmas was a bit unusual. Fiona's journey home from university was more difficult than planned, with a canceled flight, and a late-evening arrival in Seattle, instead of Vancouver, then a 2 day lag before her luggage arrived. Alex worked a lot at the movie theater. Dreary weather and Christmas season movies make it a busy place this time of year. Still, Fiona and Alex found time for their annual stocking stuffer shopping trip before Christmas.

I had a couple of vacation days at the end of last week, then one day back at work on Saturday, to support an event at the recreation centre. It turned out to be a blessing. After the event, I had a couple of hours to tidy up some projects that otherwise would have dangled into the new year. Now I'm on call for Emergency Social Services over Christmas. This is my first holiday rotation, and I'm hoping that all will be quiet for the firefighters, the families and me!

Andy and I attended Christmas for a Cause, the annual benefit show put on by some young musical theatre artists in our community. Each year they raise funds and awareness for homeless people. This year, they put on a great show and raised over $3 thousand over two nights, which they donated to Union Gospel Mission and First United Church. The music helped us find our Christmas spirit, and it was great connecting with theatre families who we have grown to know and love over many years.

Last night, our family attended Christmas Eve service at our church. This has been our tradition for a dozen years now. We volunteer as greeters, and help with lighting the candles through the church for everyone to sing Silent Night together at the end of the service. After church we popped over to our neighbours' house for a visit, drinks and laughter. Over the years, the kids, who used to play in the basement, have grown up and migrated upstairs to join the adult conversation. It's the one time every year that we see them all together, and that's very nice.

I baked pumpkin pies last night (one for tonight, one for the neighbours' last night). Today I will make some spinach ball appetizers, and Andy will make his mashed potato casserole to take over to my parents' place. That's all we have to do. I think we'll watch It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street before we go out. The tree it lit, the house is warm and fragrant with good food smells. The cat is enjoying her Christmas treat: "finicky eater hairball kitty snacks." All is well.

question: what makes your Christmas bright?

mompoet - happy at home

Friday, December 21, 2012

why firefighters and police officers are among my absolutely favourite people in the world



question: this is good - no question!

mompoet - grateful for good people in the world

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

a cold front went a little bit crazy, the snow came in from off the coast, and everyone fell fast and thick

Last night it hailed. Buckets of pea-sized hail balls fell for about 30 minutes. There was also lightning. It was a wild night, briefly. Then it stopped hailing and resumed drizzly raining and acted all normal for December in the Pacific Northwest.

I woke up in the morning to see fluffy white dandruff drifting from the sky. It had that surprised look that the first snow of the season often has: "What? me? snow? Nahhhhhh! not really... well, maybe." I watched it falling in the dark and thought, "I'm not driving today." A tiny bit of me felt like I was being too cautious, but I really prefer not to drive when it snows. We live on a steep hill, and even if you can get out and off to work, getting back up the hill to home 9 hours later is frequently another story altogether.

So I put on my Gore-Tex and my hiking boot hybrids, and my baseball cap, and because it is nearly mid-winter and still dark at 7:30am, I clipped and velcroed on a variety of reflective and luminescent doo-dads to help make myself visible in the darkness and the thick wafting snow. Instead of a nearly invisible shadow person, I looked like something driving around on the tarmac at the airport.

Walking up the hill, I kicked at least 5 inches of snow out from in front of my boots with each step. It was really piling up. I reached up and noticed that the LED light on the visor of my ball cap was covered up with snow already, just 10 minutes into my one hour walk. I brushed it off and continued walking. It was actually really nice out. The snow was deep but light and everything was transformed by a marshmallow puffy coating.

A lot of people were standing at the bus stop. I walked past them, and wondered how the buses were doing. Lots of people take transit instead of their cars when it snows. Pretty soon I came across a bus that was empty and parked on the side of the road, hazard lights flashing, on a very gentle hill. A little further on, two other buses were stuck on another gradual slope. I think the roads were very slippery for vehicles. Cars seemed to be making it through, but the buses were just stuck.

Along the way, I saw a family tumbling out of the front door of their house. I imagined what each person was thinking. The Dad was grumbling about having to drive his kids to school and wife to work in what was sure to be awful traffic, and wondering whether he should have done a better job scraping the driveway. The kids were thinking SNOW! and looking for the deepest drift to plunge into, face down. The Mom was worried about whether they would all make it safely to their destinations, and hoping that everyone had properly packed their lunches, books and gear in the mad rush to get out the door. She had a sinking feeling that this was going to be a long and stressful day.

I was even more grateful to be able to walk to work when I got up to North Road, a busy arterial route. The snow had fallen so quickly there that is was not melting under the rush hour traffic. Instead, it was mashed down into an icy compressed pack, about an inch thick on the road. Drivers were inching along, partly out of caution, and partly because of congestion (traffic, not nasal). I churned my way past them on the still fluffy sidewalk. At one point, the traffic bottlenecked from 2 lanes down to one. The weight of the snow had brought down an old tree. It leaned across a fence and out over the right lane, hanging too low for cars to pass under it. I crouched and scrambled under it, then stopped walking for a moment, and phoned the police to let them know about the problem.

By the time I got to work I was really happy to be walking. Everything looked so beautiful, and everyone who was walking looked happy to be out on such a white shiny morning. Lots of people were out with their dogs, and the dogs were ecstatic. All of the dogs were thinking: SNOW! SNOW! SNOW! SNOW! Dogs have a wonderful outlook on life. We should all be more like dogs.

The parking lot at my work was nearly empty at 9am, and it had not yet been plowed, so I wrote a big message on its snowy expanse, by shuffling around in my boots, forming a word 15 feet tall and 30 feet wide, before I went inside to work. The message was in dog. It said SNOW.

question: how did you manage with the weather today?

mompoet - SNOW!

Monday, December 17, 2012

merry babblefish

And now for a Christmas song, translated and re-constituted for your entertainment.

We begin with John Lennon's iconic Christmas song, Happy Christmas (War is Over):

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? 
Another year over, and a new one just begun. 
And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun,
The near and the dear ones, the old and the young.

Translated into Bulgarian, using google translate, it looks like this:

Така че това е Коледа и какво си направил?  
Още една година, и нова току-що започна.  
И така, това е Коледа. Надявам се да се забавлявате. 
Близките и скъпи, старите и младите хора.

Translate the Bulgarian to Danish and it looks like this:

Så dette er jul og hvad har du gjort? 
Endnu et år og en ny lige begyndt.  
Og så det er jul. Håber du nyder.  
Nære og kære, gamle og unge.

And now, getting closer to the North Pole, we translate to Icelandic:

SA dette Er Júlí Og hvad Har du gjort?  
Endnu et Ar Og en NY lige begyndt.  
Og sa Det Er Júlí Haber du nyder.  
Nære Og kære, Gamle Og unge.

Hmmm, looks remarkably similar. Let's go far away to Indonesia:

SA dette Julian Dan apa Har du dilakukan?  
Endnu et AR dan NY Lige begyndt.  
Dan melihat Det Julian Haber du nyder.  
Nære Dan kære, Gamle dan remaja.

and now back to English:

SA dette Julian And what Har du done?  
Endnu et AR and NY Lige begyndt.  
And seeing Julian Haber Det du nyder.  
Nære And kære, Gamle and adolescents. 

question: it's the same, isn't it?

mompoet - Merry Christmas everyone, gamle and adolescents. 
  
ps... have you seen Julian Haber Det? If so tell him his nyder is du today.

  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

my swarmjam christmas list


My Swarmjam Christmas List

Now you may have heard of Groupon – that online group deal site
With restaurant meals, and tours and spas, every frugal elf's delight
With daily email offerings for budgets loose and tight...
But Groupon's not where Santa shops to get his gift list right.

Santa shops at Swarmjam. It's Groupon's tacky cousin.
Swamjam emails daily too, with gifties by the dozen.
So if you know a person who has everything already,
Subscribe to Swarmjam for a stream of junkie gifts most steady.

If your mother's ears are cold, she won't think that you're a meanie
Go to Swarmjam for a cute and cozy stereo headphone beanie.

And thinking of your mother, if she's got whiskers like most geezers
Help with her grooming with some automatic tweezers.

Please don't forget your father! Send away his Christmas blues
With some vegan eco-friendly organic walking shoes.

Your husband will be ecstatic, and surely laugh and beam
At cookies with the logo of his favourite sports team.

Or, if your wife is one for glamour, but her wardrobe is a mess
Give temporary eye-rock crystals (OUCH!) and a bikini wrap-up dress.

And when you stuff her stocking, she won't complain at all
About coloured hair extensions and a cool bra-washing ball.

The kids want touchscreen leather gloves, and they will jump with glee
At self-sanitizing toothbrushes, powered by LED.

Now don't forget the family dog – you know what he likes:
At Swarmjam you can sign him up for dog adventure hikes.

A memory foam bath mat, will help your family feel refreshed,
While whole body vibration treatments will make them happy-fleshed.

And if in fact you're Jewish, and you're sick of giving gelt
Why not go to Swarmjam for a nifty silicone belt? (in your choice of 8 neon colours).

Yes, Santa shops at Swarmjam, to keep our spirits lifted.
Those Swarmjam gifts are gifts most likely gifts that are re-gifted.
Yes, buy your gifts at Swarmjam, and you'll soon say, “This is living.”
The gifts you'll buy on Swarmjam are the gifts that keep on giving.

*No gifts were actually purchased on Swarmjam in the making of this poem.

question: who in the world needs 30 days of raspberry ketone pills and a furminator pet grooming brush?

mompoet - maybe I will buy the at home sushi roller

Friday, December 14, 2012

what can I do? what can I say?

Sitting here thinking about the awful, horrible killings at the school in Connecticut, I'm not sure what I should say in my blog today. By the time you read this, you will probably already have heard enough information and opinion to fill you up with the sadness and anger and hopelessness that we surely all must feel about what has happened.

I guess all I can offer is a suggestion that times of sadness are also times of goodness and compassion. When the world looks grim, it sometimes helps to do something good, and to recognize the good that others do. This does not undo the harm, but it helps restore a balanced impression of what-all is going on in the world.

Also, we have to take better care of our friends and relatives and strangers who struggle with mental illness. And we need to give up the idea that everyone having a gun makes us safer. Clearly, it does not.

In the meantime, kindness and hope, compassion and appreciation. Hug your kids of course, but also reach out to the odd and the friendless in whatever way you can. You might be saving someone from destructive desperation, who knows?

And now for a video of some people saving a humpback whale.

And information about a good place to buy your Christmas tree this year.

Love and prayers to those who have lost lost ones today. Love and prayers also to those who are lost inside their own lives. Love and prayers to whales and children and Christmas trees. The world needs a hug today.

question: why?

mompoet - I don't know

Thursday, December 13, 2012

wearing pajamas to work

On Wednesday morning, I showed up at work in my pajamas. I have gone to work before in pajamas, but this time it was really a high profile wearing of pajamas at work. This time, it was our department director's annual Christmas meeting, at the Rowing Pavilion, with about 250 invited employees.

It all began last Christmas. Another recreation centre staff team showed up to the annual Christmas meeting wearing tacky Christmas sweaters. Everyone was impressed by how awful and creative and cohesive they looked. This year, when the invitations to the meeting arrived, our boss said, "Remember those Christmas sweaters last year? Should we do something like that?" Well, our conversation began with Santa hats and Christmas ties (lame) to reindeer antlers (boring) to something more adventurous. We decided to carry our signature sock monkeys with us, because the sock monkey has become the unofficial mascot of our rec centre. We decided that the only appropriate attire for people carrying sock monkeys is pajamas.

Meeting time was 9am, with coffee from 9 to 9:30, then business beginning at 9:30. Our boss arrived at 20 minutes before 9, and was the only one there wearing pajamas for the first 15 minutes. She was sweating, and wondering if maybe we had pulled a prank on her. Of course we did not! Each of us arrived, all wearing pajamas, slippers and robes, and carrying sock monkeys. We all sat together, which made a better impact. There were 8 of us there, all cozy and snuggly in our pajamas, seated directly in front of the Director, who was wearing a suit and tie.

Wearing pajamas to work is kind of like jumping into a swimming pool. There's apprehension, then reluctance as you approach the side of the pool, then it's uncomfortable when you first jump in, but before you know it, it feels great. We got all kinds of compliment on our appearance, and our guts, for doing this. Lots of people said they wished they were wearing pajamas because we all looked so happy and comfortable. Some people thought we were nuts. That's okay too.

The Director ignored our pajamas at first, then made a reference to them after the break. Someone asked him if he would wear a fuzzy onesy to next year's Christmas meeting and he said no, with great certainty. Oh well.

If you have never worn pajamas to work, please consider doing so. I know not everyone is allowed do this, but if you can find a way, you will be very glad.

question: what's the weirdest thing you ever wore to work?

mompoet - come on in - the water's fine!


our house made the front page of the newspaper

What gingerbread dreams are made of

Our gingerbread house, that is! We also received a huge prize basket stuffed with an interesting assortment of items which I will describe in another post. It includes passes to the Vancouver Folk Festival, candy and hand sanitizers.

question: did you ever write a headline in frosting?

mompoet - SWEET!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

swarmjam

I subscribe to Groupon and Swarmjam. Both companies send me a daily email, offering online deals on goods and services. I have bought a few Groupon deals and have really enjoyed them: dance classes (for Fiona), restaurant meals, admissions to attractions, and even kayaking sessions. I have not bought anything from Swarmjam, but I love looking at their emails. The stuff they offer is just so darn weird. Here's a selection of things I have not bought from Swarmjam:

  • 14 carat plated gold evil eye and receiving hand bracelet
  • motivational self help book "If Only I'd Said That, Volume VI"
  • my choice of bean bag chair (as opposed to a randomly imposed bean bag chair)
  • bikini wrap dress
  • coloured hair extensions
  • temporary eye rock crystals (I don't even know what that is but it sounds like it hurts)
  • three whole body vibration sessions (WHOO!)
  • woman's sheepskin leather touchscreen gloves (can I combine that with the previous offer?)
  • three collagen eye renewal treatments
  • vegan eco-friendly footwear
  • pet teeth cleaning and polishing
  • memory foam bath mat
  • radio controlled stunt car
  • automatic tweezers
  • air assault Halloween fireworks
  • 12 logo cookies of your favourite team or character
  • 2-night romantic getaway in Victor (Oh, sorry, that was Victoria)
  • evening with Jamie Lee Curtis (better than Victor, anyway)
  • 5 24-karat gold facial masks
  • bra washing ball
  • 30 days of raspberry ketone pills
  • dog adventure hikes
  • custom made earplugs
I usually WHOOP with laughter when I get a Swarmjam email. It's free to subscribe, and they keep sending them even if you never buy anything. It's like those joke a day sites, only it's so unintentionally funny that I am addicted to it.

question: If I were to buy one thing from that list for your Christmas present, which should it be?

mompoet - HA!

Monday, December 10, 2012

home sweet home

I am sitting in my kitchen, posting a blog while some cookies bake in the oven. I am baking for a potluck at work tomorrow, and for our sandwich ministry December meeting (at which we make sandwiches then have a snack feast at our friend Grace's house), and for Andy and Alex (because last time I baked cookies I did not bake enough to leave sufficient quantities at home for them to eat). The cookies are a double batch of mocha shortbreads. It's a recipe that I cut out of the newspaper years ago. Here it is:

1 cup butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract (I left this out tonight because one of my co-workers is allergic)
2 tsp strong brewed coffee
1 Tbs cocoa
1 Tbs fine ground coffee
2 1/2 cups flour

Cream the butter and icing sugar. Then add the salt, vanilla, almond extract, brewed coffee, ground coffee and cocoa and stir well. Then mix in the flour. You pretty much have to use your hands at the end, but not too much. You don't want to melt the butter.

Shape the cookies onto a cookie sheet. I make them lozenge shaped and poke holes in them with a fork, but that's just me. Bake for 15 minutes in a 350 oven. They are done when they are slightly brown on the bottom. While they are still hot, pat them gently into granulated sugar.

They are barely sweet, very buttery-coffee-cocoa tasting and yummy. Make lots. That's a single recipe there. You might want to just use a whole pound of butter and double it.

I am looking forward to having Fiona bake cookies in our kitchen. Before she left for university, she had pretty much taken over as the family cookie baker. Now that she's away, we are mostly deficient in cookies except when I get the occasional urge.

I am also taking szechuan green beans to the potluck at work. The theme for the potluck is "naughty or nice." I'm not sure which the beans are, but I think the cookies are definitely naughty. If you eat one with a glass of Gran Marnier or a shot of Sambucca alongside, that is definitely naughty, but probably too naughty for work. That's another good reason I made enough to keep some at home.

Eleven days until Fiona comes home. Or only 10 days if you are in New Jersey, because it is already tomorrow there. Fiona, I hope this still counts as blogging Monday.

question: do you bake cookies?

mompoet - home is sweet and soon will be sweeter with the addition of our best cookie baker



Sunday, December 09, 2012

belated

Andy, Alex and I celebrated my birthday a bit belatedly with my parents on Saturday. We went to the Korean barbeque restaurant and cooked supper at our table. It was delicious. Then we went back to Mom and Dad's for cake. Mom made my favourite: coffee angelfood with chocolate glaze.

Andy took this picture. I had blown out the other 3 candles on my binary birthday cake already. This one signifies my 1 boyfriend, who is also my husband.

question: what kind of birthday cake do you like?

mompoet - I like s-t-r-e-t-c-h birthdays!

O Christmas Tree

I am remembering some of our most memorable Christmas trees today:

1. The Just Finished PDP Tree
Christmas 1983 is the Christmas of my finishing my university degree + one extra year for my teacher certification. I had an especially hard time in my final semester. The school teacher who I was partnered with was going through a difficult time personally, and was not in a good place to make we feel welcome or encouraged. Every day, for almost the whole semester, I cried on my way to and from school and usually also at some point during the day. I loved teaching, but I lived in total fear that I was going to fail the semester and have to repeat it, and my interactions with my teacher sponsor made me feel less than useless as a teacher, and sometimes as a person. Looking back, I think it was one of the worst periods of my life.

So when Christmas rolled around and I was finished with that, and I passed the program, and was ready to start life as a teacher, I was greatly relieved. I had just moved in with Andy, and that was very happy too. We lived in a small apartment in South Burnaby. I had a couple of weeks off work of any kind, and I commenced crafting. We bought an artificial Christmas tree, because real trees weren't allowed in the building, and I made all of the ornaments for it. I made clothespin reindeer, using wooden clothespins which I painted dark brown and decorated with felt, sequins, googly eyes and string. I sewed puffy stuffed stars out of felt, decorated with larger sequins. I crafted tiny mice in bed, sleeping in halved walnut shells, and I made little baskets with baby's breath flowers and tartan bows. I spent happy hours doing all of this. Andy put lights on the tree, and we put all of these home-made ornaments on. It was the most beautiful, therapeutic Christmas tree ever. We still have a lot of those home-made ornaments. When I put them on our tree I remember that year. It was a turning point in our lives. I didn't turn out to be a teacher, but Andy and I turned out to be a married couple soon after and forever more. I haven't ever been that miserable for that long any more, but I know that doing something creative and/or homey is a good reset for me.

2. The Almost Didn't Get A Tree
The kids were about 2 and 5, so it must have been about 1995. We were living in Port Moody by this time, and we have always bought a cut tree for our home here. I was busy running a daycare in our home, and we had opted not to clutter up our small house with a tree for too many days, because my daycare kids played all around the house, and I had babies and toddlers and didn't want to worry about anyone pulling down the tree, besides our own kids. So we waited until December 22 or so, and went looking for a tree on a Friday evening, I think. We had supper at my parents' place, then headed over to the hardware store where they sold cheap trees. Sold out. No problem, let's go to a tree lot. Sold out. Now we were frantic. We had children crying in the back seat, because they were afraid we would not get a Christmas tree this year. We still had the artificial tree from the apartment, tucked under our stairs, but we really wanted a real tree. We found a place with trees, but they were expensive and they had trunks the size of elephant legs that would not fit our tree stand. Finally, somewhere, we found a tree. It cost $35, which was a lot at the time, and Andy had to hack and whittle the trunk to make it fit the stand, but we got our tree. PHEW. I learned that year to buy our tree at least a week before Christmas.

3. The Mom and Daughter Tree
Fiona was 6 or 7 years old. Andy was working a lot of overtime on the weekends. I was working full time again. Alex must have been 9 or 10. Fiona was in a show out at a theatre in Port Coquitlam, so I was driving back and forth evenings and weekends to get her to her performances. We just did not have time to go out as a family and get a tree. One Saturday about a week before Christmas, Fiona and I decided to get the tree between her matinee and evening shows. We drove to Rona, where they sold cheap trees, and chose a tree. I had never picked out a tree without Andy, so I was a bit nervous about bringing it home on top of the car. The man at Rona said he couldn't help us tie the tree on the car because of liability, but he gave us as much string as we wanted. Fiona and I rolled down the car windows (we had no roof rack), and tied the string around and under and through the car and the tree, probably more times than necessary. When we tried to get back into the car, we discovered we had tied all but one door shut! So we climbed into the car through the backseat and drove home. The tree did not fall off. That year I learned to open the car doors, not just the windows, when you tie a tree onto your car roof with string.

4. The Sad Tree
The Christmas of the big snow, 2008, Andy and Fiona went to IKEA to buy a tree. They had a deal there where you buy a tree for $20, then bring it back after Christmas for a $20 store coupon. Such a deal! I was skeptical, but I know IKEA sometimes does amazing things. Andy and Fiona brought back a frozen shut tree. We put it in the stand. Over the next 24 hours, the tree slowly opened out. It was a horrible tree. Many of the branches had no needles at all, and the rest of the branches began to drop their needles profusely as soon as they thawed. Every time I looked at that tree it looked worse. Andy and Fiona kept saying things like, "If we put ornaments and lights on, it will be okay." But I couldn't stand it. I told them that tree made me feel sad and we had to get a new tree. So I drove out myself to Art Knapps and got a nice tree. The sad IKEA tree went out to the front garden, where Andy planted it in a mound of snow, and decorated it with outdoor lights. It looked okay out there. I learned that Christmas that it's okay to to insist on something decent and not to accept a sad Christmas tree. I also remembered to open the doors when I tied the replacement tree to the top of my car.

So those are our most memorable Christmas trees. I can't wait to see what we get this year. We will go out 11 days before Christmas. We will buy a tree that is not frozen, we will tie it to the car the correct way, and we will enjoy the peace and nourishment of decorating it and relaxing with it in our warm and cozy home.

question: what's your most memorable tree?

mompoet - remembering

Saturday, December 08, 2012

life is filled with delight

First of all, Fiona will be home in 2 weeks! I am timing the putting up of our Christmas tree so it will greet her when she walks in the door. We get a cut tree, so as soon as we bring it into the house, the clock is ticking. I think next Friday will be the perfect time to put it up. I usually take it down a couple of days after Christmas, mostly because it's sad to take it down after New Year's Eve. So that means we can start a bit earlier than otherwise. I love to get up early in the morning and turn on just the Christmas tree, and sit with a cup of coffee and look at the lights. mmmmm!

Second of all, my workplace won the very first Extreme Makeover Gingerbread House Edition Contest. A bunch of City departments took identical gingerbread house kits and crafted them into something special. Here's ours.

Finally, we had the best choir concert ever last night. I have to admit it was my second concert ever, but I think this one will last in my memory long after the others have faded. We performed in a church gymnasium for about 125 moms and children. For most of the show, the audience was louder than the choir, even with us using a sound system for amplification. The children were dancing all around the stage for the whole concert. A lot of the moms were singing along, and we got huge applause and thank yous at the end. It felt like we were rock stars, except for the parts when most of the audience was ignoring us and eating Nanaimo bars. The best part was two little girls in beautiful party dresses, who jumped up on the risers and ran in and out between us on the stage, grabbing our legs and head butting us as they played tag among the singing choir members. It was all I could do not to crack up laughing. You should have seen our choir leader's face as she directed us to soldier on and have fun. I really did. I looked out at the audience and thought about what Christmas would be like for them, and wanted to make it as loving and full of fun as I could.

Today I'll go to the movie theatre to see a family matinee with Alex. It's A Christmas Story on the big screen. This is totally a family favourite. We can quote entire scenes of of the movie to each other. I think it will be so much fun to see in the theatre. Of course, when Fiona comes home, we will watch it together on TV.

Tonight, my Mom and Dad will meet up with us for a belated birthday supper at the Korean barbeque restaurant. YUM.

question: what's good for you today?

mompoet - life is truly filled with delight

Friday, December 07, 2012

the shelter

Last week our church finished up its month of hosting the Bridge Shelter. It's our sixth year of helping with this program. Each year I have signed up for Tuesday and Thursday breakfast shifts. It happened that my last shift was on my birthday. So I started my day dark and early, serving breakfast, handing out lunches, putting away beds, vacuuming the floor, and cleaning up the kitchen after sending our 20 guests out with wishes for a safe and happy day.

Our shelter coordinator for the month summarized some of the facts about the two months that we hosted this year:

We put out 572 mats in November and served/provided over 1,700 meals. In March when we hosted, we put out 409 mats and served/provided over 1,200 meals. This year St. Andrew’s has put out over 980 mats and served/provided over 2,950 meals.

In the first two months of shelter operation this fall, the outreach workers who supervise the shelter have helped 12 guests to permanent housing and 3 into recovery programs. This is the part of the shelter that goes beyond just providing a safe, warm, welcoming place for our brothers and sisters.

Besides this, I believe it changes all of us who help. Being part of this has opened my eyes and my heart and made me less afraid to talk to people whose lives are so different from mine. I have learned that we really are not all that different. I used to be afraid. Now I know that most of the people who we help are much more frightened that we are. Laughing over coffee, sharing encouragement in both directions, we bridge a divide that is much more narrow than I ever imagined. Those figures about how many are fed by the shelter? We could double them, when you consider that we, as hosts, are nourished equally, if not more, by our experience.

So Thursday morning was a happy birthday for me, beginning with toast and peanut butter and coffee and bleach and smiles and jokes, early in the morning.

question: when have you known that you are blessed to be a blessing?

mompoet - until next year...


being alive

Chris Colfer performed this on Glee last night. He did a very nice job in his character of Kurt Hummel. It reminded me how much I love this song.



question: what song reminded you of something today?

mompoet - listening

Thursday, December 06, 2012

home to 60 in less than a minute

We had a wonderful visit with Fiona in New York and New Jersey, but we could not call it relaxing. A New York vacation is full of go-go-go. There's so much to do and see, and we wanted to get as much as we could out of every moment. Couple that with the 3 hour time difference, and you pretty much have a recipe for tired!

Every time I go on vacation I tell myself, "next time I will schedule the first day home as an extra vacation day so I can unpack, rest up and readjust," but it never works out that way. We got home on a Sunday evening. On Monday, I returned to work, and Andy headed out to the Sunshine Coast to help his brother with a kitchen renovation. He helped with floor tiling for 3 days, while I hit the ground running at work: on call for Emergency Social Services, preparing to present at a conference and to host our seniors' Christmas lunch. There was also a church board meeting in there, and a final rehearsal for our choir concert. I felt like every moment was jam-packed with stuff I needed to do, and I celebrated my birthday too!

Everything went well:

It was a quiet week on call. Phew.

My presentation at the conference went well. I wrote and performed a slam poem after the lunch break. I think of that presentation slot as the same as the big number right after intermission in a musical theatre production. The show writers must know that everyone might nod off after they return from the break, so it seems like that's always where they have a tiger on stage and a lady in a yellow sequin dress being shot out of a cannon and guys with banjos swinging from the chandeliers. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. I don't think my poem compared with that, but it helped to serve the same function - injecting some fun and excitement into a room full of people lulled by half a day sitting already and gourmet macaroni and cheese at the lunch buffet. I followed up with a poem at the end of the day, written just before the end of the day, to summarize the highlights of our day at the conference. That was nerve-wracking, but it worked. I put some singing into both poems (inspired by my choir experience) and even got the conference delegates to sing with me. YAY

We had our first choir concert on Sunday afternoon. It was utter chaos right up to curtain time, and even a bit during the show. That's the first time I have ever seen a performance paused so one of the musicians can run outside to prevent his car from being towed away. Our singing went well, and we are encouraged and energized for two more shows in the next couple of days. Once you have done the first show, it's all good. There will be video soon, and I will share it with you.

The Christmas luncheon was a big success. We had a full turkey dinner (catered, thank goodness!) and Elvis was in the building for entertainment. Our seniors love Elvis! Best of all, my co-worker Linda was back from her 2 week vacation. I missed her when she was away!

My birthday was quiet and sweet. I had a nice Thai chicken supper, cooked by my Mom, and a lovely time chatting with my parents. We'll have a belated birthday cake this weekend, when Andy and Alex are available to attend.

I did stop all the action on Saturday, and stayed in my pajamas for most of the day. That was nice.

Life is fast and fun and full of good things. I am grateful for my energy and for all of the good people around me who reflect it back to me. Sometimes I crave a nap when I don't have time for one, but mostly I am happy with it all. Suddenly New York seems like a long time ago. We'll have to go back again soon.

question: what's on your plate?

mompoet - buzz buzz buzz

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

happy birthday Isaac

This morning we slept in until 8am, which is not really sleeping in, according to Fiona. After breakfast we went shopping for stuff for Fiona's res room, then we caught the train to Princeton Junction, where my cousin Grace picked us up to go to a birthday celebration for her youngest son, Isaac. Isaac is THREE. It was good to spend the day with Grace and her husband and their wonderful children. My Aunt Barbara was there for the celebration too.


We are delighted to have this time with beloved family members on Isaac's big day.

question: who do you know who has a birthday this month?

mompoet - November birthdays rock!

together in NYC

Here's Fiona and Andy and me in Times Square Tuesday evening. We had a birthday party for Andy and me, about halfway between our birthdays. Fiona treated us to supper at an Italian restaurant on 9th Ave, then we picked up Junior's Cheesecake and sat down to eat it at a table in Times Square at abouty 10pm (that's New York for "early").
After cheescake, Fiona took us on an amazing clandestine elevator ride, then we headed back to the hotel. We are so happy to be spending a few days together in New York and New Jersey with our girl.

question: who would you like to be with this weekend?

mompoet - missing Alex, over the moon to be with Fiona

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

walking around in the lower east side

It's Tuesday afternoon in New Jersey. Soon, Fiona will be on the train down from university. She'll stay with Andrew and me at our hotel over her Thanksgiving break. We are so happy to have some leisure time together with her!

Today, Andrew and I went down to where the streets are single digits, and explored a few interesting neighbourhoods. Here are a few photos from our 6 hour walking adventure:



These are taken from the High Line. It's a park built up on the old guideway where a train once ran to the meat packing plants in the neighbourhood.



These are taken in Chelsea and Greenwich Village. This is a very arty, funky and zesty part of Manhattan. We enjoyed poking around, and found that people were friendly and helpful, helping us find places.

Here we are, pausing at a very friendly old-fashioned diner with new-fashioned food, for lunch.

I can't wait to do some exploring with Fiona along!

question: when you walk around looking at things, what do you see?

mompoet - enjoying our discoveries

Monday, November 19, 2012

We love New York (and the people here)



Andy and I are in New York and New Jersey. On Sunday we visited Fiona at the university and saw her school's production of Carousel. Before the show we went out for brunch in Upper Montclair. It is so good to spend time with her! Today we met up with our friend Al in his neighbourhood of Astoria in Queens. He tooks us on a walk (Al can walk a lot!) and for lunch, then we jumped in his car to see some amazing things at the Queens Museum. I'll post more later, but now we're going to take the bus into the city to see a show.

question: Do you love NY?

mompoet - happy happy happy

Friday, November 16, 2012

too long since I have posted - more for real from me soon I promise but for now...



question: is everything connected to everything?

mompoet - puzzling it out

Saturday, October 27, 2012

for anyone experiencing an early winter blast

have heart, there are a few good things about fierce weather:



question: cold outside?

mompoet - that's okay, really

Friday, October 26, 2012

how to make an 80th birthday crisp

Just to be clear, this is about making a "crisp" which is a noun when it is the name of a baked fruit dessert. It is not about how to make an 80th birthday crisp as in the adjective for crunchy, fresh, neat or lively.

I realised I have not posted a "how to cook something" blog in a little while. When I baked a fruit crisp for my mom's 80th birthday recently, I photographed the process. So here we go...

Mom had a delicious home-made layer cake on her actual birthday, at my sister's house in Cranbrook. A week later we celebrated with Mom at home. She wanted a lighter dessert, so I made an apple blueberry cranberry crisp. I got some gorgeous Norther Spy apples at the Coquitlam Farmers' Market. I sliced these into an oiled casserole, then added some frozen blueberries from the big batch that Andy and I picked this summer. Then I used up the leftover fresh cranberries from our Thanksgiving dinner. Notice how I partially sliced each cranberry before adding them? Cranberries are prone to bursting as they heat, and I didn't want mini dessert explosions disrupting my baking effort.


Next, I mixed one cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and a teaspoon of cinnamon, then I stirred the mixture into the apples and berries in the casserole. If I was a neatnik, I would have done this in a large bowl rather than in (and out of) the crowded casserole. But a neatnik I am not, so it was a bit messy. Don't worry, it's not essential to have it completely combined. The bubbling juices will move the sugar and cornstarch around as the crisp bakes.


For the topping, I mixed 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats, and 1/2 cup cooking oil. You can use butter or margarine instead of the oil but then it's not vegan-friendly. Too much of the world is not vegan-friendly, so I used the oil, which makes just as nice a topping as any alternative. (Are you thinking "What? Isn't margarine vegan-friendly?" Please read up. Most regular margarine is not.)

You may have noticed that the fruit and topping are mounded up pretty high. I always think this when I am building a crisp. It won't stay that way, however. As the fruit cooks it will collapse, as the water leaves the cells and turns into the yummy juice that will rise up in the casserole. That's why we use cornstarch after all, to thicken up the juice, so the finished dessert is yummy and gooey, not yummy and drippy.

Bake the whole thing for 45 minutes to an hour at 350. If the top browns before you can see the gooey bubbles all through the dessert, cover the top loosely (tight wrapping will trap the steam and defeat the crispiness of the topping) with a piece of aluminum foil and continue baking.

Here's how it should look when it's ready.

Here's how Mom looked when we sang happy birthday to her. I know we're not using crisp as an adjective here, but don't you think my mom looks crisp (in a good way)?

question: what does crisp mean to you?

mompoet - happy birthday to mompoet's mom

winter is coming

and yes, it makes me very happy, indeed. This is a view of the north shore mountains from Clark Street in Port Moody.

question: do you like the winter?

mompoet - don't hate me because I'm weird

Sunday, October 21, 2012

pantless in port moody

Do you ever dream that you are a student at high school or university, and you discover you have showed up to school without your clothing and/or you have not prepared for an important exam or presentation? I think this is a classic "I am unprepared, unqualified, and in danger of being humiliated" dream. I dream it from time to time. The other version of this dream for me takes place at a floor hockey tournament. I find myself in the final game of the tournament, with absolutely no skills, stamina or understanding of the game. Often I am playing without a hockey stick. (Did I mention I have a life long aversion to participating in team sports?)

Yesterday, I thought that I was going to live that dream. Fortunately, it turned out to be not so bad after all. A few months ago, Barb Buxton, the Adult Services Librarian at the Port Moody Library, phoned me and invited me to participate in a panel discussion about how to get published. I told her that I thought she was asking the wrong person because none of my stories or poetry have been commercially published, not even one poem in a literary journal, let alone a book. I do have a recipe for B-Bars that was published in the CBC Squares and Bars Cookbook about 10 years ago, but I don't think that counts. I also have work in the 11 (soon 12) chapbooks published by the Shoreline Writers' Society, and my own self-published poetry collection, Swirl. Barb told me this would be okay. She was looking for someone local, and they needed a poet on the panel. I offered to help track down a local, published poet. She said she wanted me. I said yes.

The intervening months went by, and I heard from Irene Jakse, the Program and Services Coordinator at the library. Irene put me in touch with the panel moderator, Julie Ferguson. Julie introduced all 5 panelists to one-another via email, and an exchange of biographies. So I knew my fellow panelists: Joyce Gram is a lawyer, a contract writer for non-profits and a professional editor. Lois Peterson is a children's librarian who has published 7 books for young readers with Orca Press. Gaetan Royer is the former City Manager for Port Moody, now a Senior Planner for Metro Vancouver Region. He has published Time for Cities: Canadian Towns and Cities are Going Broke! Strategies for a Sustainable Future, and is working on his next book. He is also the recipient of the Governor General's Meritorious Service Medal in recognition of his humanitarian work in the restoration of war-torn Sarajevo and Bosnia. David Russell is an actor, screen-writer and free-lance writer for newspaper and magazines. he has published two detective novels with Dundurn Publishers, and is working on his third. Our panel moderator was similarly accomplished. Julie Ferguson has published 15 non-fiction books in the past 17 years, writes travel articles, and coaches authors on their way to getting published. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement.

I emailed Julie and told her that I felt that I was significantly under-qualified to be on the panel. I write mostly for the joy of it, and to facilitate my performance as a spoken word artist. I am not a book-maker like these other real authors! Audience members, seeking wisdom about how to get published, will surely be disappointed by anything I can tell them. Julie reassured me, it would be okay. I could bring my perspective, and it would be welcome and helpful. Okay, I said, if you say so. Still, I had grave doubts.

Thursday evening before the Saturday panel, I shared the stage with Rosemary Nowicki, performing poetry and stories for the Elizabeth Bagshaw Women's Clinic fundraising evening. I was in my element, performing the pieces I had written and rehearsed. I was confident in my preparation and my ability to convey my message using the skills I have developed over many years of practising spoken word performance. The audience was appreciative, Friends and relatives were there too. I felt in my element, doing something that I felt confident doing. I knew why I said, "yes," to this.

But why, oh why? Why did I say "yes," to the library panel? When I woke up Saturday I thought, "I'm going to sit up there like a dumb nobody, and someone's going to ask me a question about submitting poetry for publication, and I'm going to say, "Well, I don't know. I have never done that!"

I got to the library early and met Julie and the other panelists. Barb and Irene were there too. Everyone was very kind and friendly. Two o'clock rolled around, and we began. And you know what? I did have something to say! The other authors answered the questions about literary agents, submitting queries to publishers, copyright issues, professional editing, etc. I talked about the importance of community, and the benefits of being part of a writing and critiquing group. I talked about Shoreline's process of collaborative chapbook writing, which is different from most anthology-making, I think. I encouraged writers to remember get out and meet and work with other writers in their community. I told them not to wait 3 years, like I did before I got the courage to attend a meeting of the Shoreline Writers. For 3 years, I told myself I was not a good enough writer to show my work to anybody but my children. Those were three years wasted!

Partway through the panel discussion, the light went on for me. I did have a role to play here, and I did have something to say. After the formal discussion, we had coffee and mingled for a while. I actually had a lineup of people waiting to speak to me about their own writing practice, and to ask me questions about how to become part of a writing group, and what happens at writing group meetings. I encouraged half a dozen people to come to our Shoreline meetings and also talked with some about other writing groups around the region, and online resources for finding groups and events.

I am glad that I trusted Barb and Julie, and had faith in myself. I feel like I was able to contribute something that helped the event and some of the people who attended. I am proud of myself for not hiding for another 3 years. I am getting better at jumping in. Before the panel began, I was chatting with Joyce Gram. We discovered that we have both recently joined choirs, something for which we both feel unqualified. I reflected that it took me 3 years to work up the courage to join a writing group, and one year to embolden myself to join a choir. I'm glad when Barb called I just said, "yes."

question: for what do you currently feel under-qualified?

mompoet - please consider saying, "yes!"

Saturday, October 13, 2012

now that the rain has begun in earnest

July, August, September, and early October have been unnaturally bright and dry here. On Friday morning the rain began. All day we were surrounded by a fine mist that seemed to come from every direction and move in every direction, like a fine, cool swarm of very wet insects. I walked to work in my Gore-Tex rain gear, noticing how the mist got up inside the cuffs of my jacket and under the peak of my cap and onto my glasses despite the fact that I was wearing a cap. After an hour walking in this mist, everything about me was wet on the outside. Thanks to my good gear, my inner layers stayed warm and dry.

Today, the air is thick with fat bumblebee raindrops all propelling themselves straight to the ground where they splash-land in puddles and little rivers on the road and sidewalk. I am at home, warm and dry in non-waterproof flannel, procrastinating and enjoying the fact that I don't have to go anywhere or do anything.

I like the rain. Rain is the way it is around here, for most of the fall, winter and spring. We should embrace it. In the spirit of embracing rain, here are a few positive thoughts about rain:

  • Rain is good for fish. The salmon need the streams to fill up now, so they will have an easy journey up to their spawning grounds. I hear that the Chum salmon are thick in the Coquitlam River now. Andy and I will go look at them this weekend.
  • Rain is calming. I woke up during a break in the rain this morning, to hear 2 happy boys next door bouncing on a trampoline in the back yard. But it began to rain again and the boys went inside. The sound of the rain on the roof soothed me back to sleep for another delicious 45 minutes of rest.
  • Rain gives us a soundscape of our outdoor space. We know when it is raining lightly, and when it is pounding down. We can tell when a car or bicycle goes by. We can hear wet footsteps. The sounds of animal and human voices are amplified by the wet air.
  • Rain makes temporary evidence of our presence. I can see wet footprints in the dry concrete leading up to our sheltered front door. I can follow an umbrella's drip trail through the lobby of the building where I work, to find out who has recently arrived. At home, I can follow the damp clumps of coats, socks and other gear to know who has recently come in from outdoors.
  • Rain reassures us that there are cycles and seasons. What goes up must come down. Everything goes around and around. Rain is the most persistent and obvious reassurance of continuity that we have in our world.
question: how's the weather where you are?

mompoet - I hope that you can find a reason to love rain today

Monday, October 08, 2012

before the rain begins to fall

Things are looking better for people who live in the Tri-Cities area (Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam). For people who have no home, the annual cold wet weather shelter program has opened up, a month earlier this year than last year. For people who have homes and jobs and food on the table, the opportunity to really share and help is so readily available. Life is really wonderful.

This year, our shelter is called "The Bridge Shelter," not because it's on or under a bridge, but because it has changed shape a bit to bridge the two years between our old shelter (which rotated from church to church from November to March) and the new one which will have a permanent address at 3030 Gordon Street in Coquitlam. The Bridge Shelter is open now at Northside Church in Port Coquitlam. The plan is to run it at that location for this winter and next, then to move to a permanent location at 3030 Gordon Street in Coquitlam in 2014.

So here's where it becomes apparent that it's things are really looking better for people who live in the Tri-Cities. Here are just a few examples:

  • If you know someone who is homeless, tell them about the shelter. It's lower barrier this year than it has been in the past. There's secure parking for guests' carts and walk-up guests are welcome. Inside there's a safe, warm place to sleep, free clothing and toiletries, a home-cooked supper, hot breakfast, and a bag lunch. Plus, there are workers from Hope For Freedom Society who can help with referrals to housing and addiction  and health services, if that's what you want.
  • If you want to help, you can volunteer to work a shift at the shelter. Morning volunteers make breakfast and eat with the guests, then put the beds away after they leave. Evening volunteers set up the beds, share supper with the guests and help with clothing and toiletries.
  • If you want to help, but don't want to work on site at the shelter, you can donate. Right now, the shelter needs new or gently used men's clothing (everything from socks to jeans to winter coats), small toiletries, feminine hygiene supplies, and groceries. Work boots are especially welcome, even used, with some life still in them.
  • Another way to help: sign up to cook supper for the guests for one night. (This is a good family or friends and neighbours project.) You just need to cook it and bring it in by about 9pm. The volunteers on site will serve it and do the dishes. You can stay if you like. It will change how you see things. I promise.
  • For information about all of the options listed above, call Hope For Freedom at 604-729-4972
  • Finally, you can learn more about the permanent shelter planned for 3030 Gordon Street in Coquitlam. There will be an open house at the Evergreen Cultural Centre, 1205 Pinetree Way in Coquitlam on Tuesday, October 16, 5-8pm. You can meet the people from Raincity Housing (the society that is building and will be operating the permanent shelter) and have input to the plans. Info about the open house: Sean Spear at 604.215.3048
We are all neighbours here. The Tri-Cities shelter program has had some awesome success stories in its 5 years of operation. It's a pretty special program in the way it enlists hands-on help from people in the neighbourhood to be hosts. It has been a life-changing experience for me to be involved. I understand so much more than I did before I began, and I have a lot more courage to step up and offer help when I see someone who looks like they need it. I also know that I have been helped by being allowed to help. You can too.

question: what do you know about this?

mompoet - please come find out more - you will be glad

thanksgiving haiku movie review

the best thing about
The Master? Joaquin Phoenix's
wings akimbo

question: did you see any movies this weekend?

mompoet - marveling at the intersection of turkey roasting and film-making

Saturday, October 06, 2012

is this the party to whom I am speaking?

My family tells me that I should change the way I say "hello" when I make an outgoing phone call. This is the way I like to do it:

1. I dial the number.
2. The phone rings.
3. Voice on the other end: "Hello?"
4. Me: "Hi Mary-Lou! It's Sue!"
5. Voice on the other end: "Um...this isn't Mary-Lou, it's her son Edward."
6. Me: "Oh, sorry Edward! Can I talk to your Mom."
7. My family members, overhearing this: "Groan!" "Mom! Don't do that!"

So today I phoned the home of my sister Barb and her husband Kim, in Cranbrook. A deep male voice answered. I said, "Hello Kim!" but of course I was wrong. It was Adem, the young man who lives with my sister and her family. Adem sounds a lot like Kim when all he says is, "Hello." Most people sound very much alike when all they say is hello. So I had a nice short chat with Adem, who was home studying while the rest of the family was out for Saturday breakfast at BJ's Restaurant in Kimberley. (loaded hashbrowns - yeah!) I told him I would call back later.

I think it's friendly to greet the person who answers the phone by name, even if the greeting is somewhat less than accurate. After all, what are the alternatives?

1. Phone rings.
2. Voice: Hello?
3. Me: Hello, this is Sue, may I please speak to Mary-Lou?
4. Voice: This is Mary-Lou!
5. Now that was awkward!

Besides, this sounds like I am a stranger. If I know Mary-Lou and her family, I think this approach is just too formal.

Here's one our friend Bill uses. It works for him:

1. Phone rings.
2. Me: Hello?
3. Bill: THIS IS BILL!
4. Me: Oh hi, Bill, this is Sue, how are you?

But I'm afraid that it would work like this for me.

1. Phone rings.
2. Voice: Hello?
3. Me: THIS IS SUE!
4. Voice: Hello Sue!
5. Me: Who is this?
6. Voice: NOT SUE!
7. Me: Oh. Sorry. Can I speak to Mary-Lou please?

or

1. Phone rings.
2. Voice: Hello?
3. Me: THIS IS SUE!
4. Voice: SO WHAT! (hangs up the phone)
5. Me: Now what?

I could just ask at the outset:

1. Phone rings.
2. Voice: Hello?
3. Me: Who's this?
4. Voice: What do you want? (hangs up)

No. that wouldn't work. Maybe, "This is Sue. Who's this?" would work better? But if I'm going to be all inquisitive, why not go for the gold?

1. Phone rings.
2. Voice: Hello?
3. Me: THIS IS SUE! Who's this? Do you like my hat? Do you like the tin man? Did you floss your teeth last night? What time is it? Where are you? How do you like me so far?
4. Voice: (hangs up the phone).

I think, for now, I'll stick with the way I am currently greeting the person who picks up the phone. Most of my friends know I do that, and will forgive me when I guess wrong.

question: Who's this?

mompoet - THIS IS SUE! Do you like loaded hashbrowns?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

learning how to be an alto (again)

I have joined a choir. It's a group of people who work for the City where I work, plus a few friends. The choir started a year ago, and I wanted to join, but I was too afraid. Then I reminded myself how it took me three years to get the courage to go to a Shoreline Writers' meeting, and how positive that was once I finally went. So I decided not to waste any more time.

I had to audition, but it was easy. I sang Happy Birthday, then held a note while someone else sang other notes with me not losing track of my note, then the leader, Cecile, told me I was "trainable," and I can join the choir. Hooray!

I joined the low alto group. It's a fun group of women. Coincidentally, three of us are named Susan. Two are Susan Elizabeth. One is Elizabeth. That is more than weird, and I like it. We meet once a week to learn and practice for 2 hours. I record most of our sessions and listen to them through the week, and peck out our alto parts on the keyboard in our basement and practise singing them. It sounds like when Alex was learning to play the alto saxophone: All by itself, what I sing doesn't sound like a song. It's so full of pauses and starts and stops with silent gaps, and the notes are un-melodic, but put it together with the other parts and it's quite lovely. Well, potentially quite lovely. Right now it sounds like the back half of a barn. MOOOO! Hee-Hawwww! Squawk!

Which brings me to self-doubt. How dare I presume to try to sing with these good singers who sing well? (I have not sung outside of home and at church on Sunday since I was about 18 years old.) Are my notes sour? Am I sliding into the beginning of my part until I hear the others singing around me? Am I singing something totally different and nobody is telling me? Does my breath smell? Do I have body odor? How's my driving? Does this dress make me look fat? Ahem.

When I listen to my recordings of our practices, I can hear the odd sour notes in our section. But the voice doesn't sound like my voice. When I can hear my voice I think it's okay. And I know that I'm not really supposed to hear my voice. I'm supposed to blend with the other voices in my section and in the rest of the choir. So as long as I am actually singing, and I don't hear HEE HAWW! MOOO! Squawww-awwwk, that things are going well. Getting better at singing will require getting better at listening so I can hear everyone, singing all the parts and know that the part I am singing fits well.

Our teacher, Cecile, is lovely. She is dynamic and encouraging and gives us lots of exercises and direction and she is working with what she has in her choir group to tweak the arrangements to be fun and challenging and not sound like the back of a barn so much. We have a good mix of voices, I think, including one teenage daughter and a 10 year old girl who just joined with her mom, which is very cool. She can be in our section, even if her name is not Susan.

Our first performance will be on December 2. Just a little less than 2 months away. I have some work to do, partly on my singing, partly on my confidence level. I can do it. I'm glad I did not wait any longer to show up and give it a try.

question: what's new for you?

mompoet - HEEE HAWWW!

Monday, October 01, 2012

art + nature + people = community

Sunday afternoon, Andy and I drove out to the Silk Purse Gallery in West Vancouver to see a show of our friend Diane Moran's paintings, sculptures and photographs.  Diane's work is expressive, whimsical and intense. We enjoyed seeing it exhibited in this beautiful little cottage turned into a gallery, on north shore across from Stanley Park.

Diane is the most community-minded artist I know. She travels to different parts of the world, arranging art exchanges between school children. She visited the survivors in one parish after Hurricane Katrina and created connections and art through that experience. At home, she has worked on banner and tile mosaic projects in many local neighbourhoods. So it was no surprise when Diane got a show at the Silk Purse, she invited the West Vancouver Shoreline Preservation Society to collaborate.

So there was Diane's beautiful art and a collage station that she set up, to encourage visitors to make art to connect with their experiences of the remarkable shoreline environment. The Shoreline Preservation Society people conducted walking tours to showcase their work restoring the shore to its natural state. They have brought back rocks and logs to the water's edge, re-built natural reefs, taken down seawall, freed stream outflows from their culverts, and worked with the city to allow more natural sediment to come down to the waterfront from the many streams that run to the shore. The result is a beach that is re-creating itself the way nature wants it to, simply because people are consciously allowing it to do so. It's really beautiful. And it's not just nicer and more natural. This beach will do a better job of protecting shoreline properties from extreme weather and rising sea level than any seawall ever could.

All in all, it was a splendid, inspiring day. We are proud and happy for Diane, and grateful for the power of caring communities.

question: did you move any rocks today? on your own or with friends?

mompoet - remembering that every rock moved has an impact on more rocks downstream

Sunday, September 30, 2012

whoooops! (fall)

Holy smokes, I did not notice how things slowed down over the summer. In July and August and even early September, I could carry everything I needed to remember and do in one pocket. Now I need a knapsack with extra compartments and tie-ons, and I'm cramming every corner full. Fortunately, I am remembering my amazing energy, creativity and optimism, and putting those into full gear.

Work at the office has geared back up. Fall programs have started up for the seniors and for the children, and everything is going well. I have some new staff members on my team, and it's great getting to know them, and making sure they are getting what they need for a successful start. Over the summer I interviewed for the job that I have been filling for 4 and a half years on an acting basis, and now it is mine permanently. Hooray! I don't have to wonder, every December, if I will be coming back to this work that I have grown to love. I am so happy, I might even re-organize the file drawers in my office. Whoah!

Things are getting busy at our church. I was elected to the Church Board in the Spring, and have just assumed the role of Board Secretary. We are preparing several events for the fall, including work towards transformation. As a congregation, we are moving towards a new, sustainable shape for our faith community. We lack the resources (people and money) to keep on going at our current location, just us. It's likely we'll join up with another nearby congregation to take a new shape altogether for both groups. I'm helping with the meeting and talking and discerning around that. By Christmas 2013, we should be on our way to something new, so this will be an exciting year. In the meantime, we continue our many ministries. I'm still leading the sandwich ministry group, making and delivering sandwiches to the downtown east side once a month. We are also preparing to host the homeless shelter again in November, this time at a new location, so I'll be driving out to Port Coquitlam a few frosty mornings in November, to make and serve breakfast and put away the beds and clean up after our guests go out for the day.

Shoreline Writers is moving towards publishing its 12th chapbook. It's hard to believe we have created so many books. Each one is a snapshot of where we have been as writers and poets that year. I am proud of all of them. I have just two poems for our 12th book, but I am helping to edit the work of 4 other members, so I feel like I am contributing to the success of the whole publication. I have been invited to be on a panel to discuss publishing at the Port Moody Library in October:

Get Published! Advice from the Experts
Port Moody City Hall Galleria
Saturday, October 20, 2012
2-4pm
Admission is free but you have to reserve a seat. Call 604-469-4577

A couple of days before that, Rosemary Nowicki and I will be performing our spoken word works at a fundraiser for the Elizabeth Bagshaw Women's Health Clinic.

Party Like it's 1988
Heritage Hall, Vancouver
Thursday, October 18, 2012
7-10pm
Tickets are $30. There food and a silent auction and a cash bar.
For more info about Elizabeth Bagshaw Clinic go here.
For tickets go here.

And, I have joined a choir. Here's info about that!

And finally, Andy's Mom's apartment has sold, so we have a couple of weeks to move everything out and have it ready for the new owners who will move in very soon.

Life is good. There's lots in my knapsack right now. I'll try to make time to pull bits out of the pack from time to time, spread them out on the floor and write a blog post about them. In the meantime, if I don't call you, call me!

question: what's in your pocket/satchel/pack this month?

mompoet - I love to go a-wandering along the mountain track...




Saturday, September 15, 2012

at the lake with the ladies

It's our annual ladies away weekend. This year, we decided to come to Samish Lake, near Bellingham, Washington. We are in a lovely lakeside house that we rented for a few days. We have been hiking, swimming, cooking, eating, reading, sitting in the hot tub, playing cards and laughing.
 





Last night my friends surprised me with a much-belated 50th birthday celebration. They decorated the house with streamers and balloons and served supper with an "anything but a cup" drinking rule, so I had to drink wine from a gravy boat. That was fun.

We are having a luxurious time, reconnecting after a busy summer, and remembering how good it is to spend time together in a beautiful place.

question: where do you like to go? and with whom do you go?

mompoet - happy

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

warm beets and beet greens salad

While we were visiting with Pam and Dave on the Sunshine Coast, we got some beets at the Sechelt Farmers' Market. I used them to make this positively yummy lunch:

Here's how I made it:

a bunch of beet green leaves, washed and torn into small pieces
chopped red onion
chopped yellow pepper
coarsely grated carrot
ripe cherries, pitted and cut into chunks
handful of sliced filberts, toasted first in a skillet and allowed to cool
sprinkle of goat cheese crumbles
olive oil and balsamic vinegar (4:1 ratio) with salt and pepper to taste
cooked beets

Start first by putting the beets on to cook. I boil them in their skin, then slip the skin off at the end. Beets take a long time to boil - allow at least 30 minutes, even for smallish ones.

While the beets boil, you can prepare the other ingredients. Combine the veggies, nuts and cheese in a bowl big enough to allow for tossing. When the beets are ready, add the dressing to the salad and toss to coat the veggies with dressing. Then lay the still-warm beet slices on top.

It's very good, I promise.

I used filberts because that's what I could find at the tiny general store in Garden Bay. You could use other nuts or seeds. I used the cherries because I wanted something sweet. Other fresh or dried fruit would work too. I used the vegetables that we had bought at the market. I think you could vary this lots of ways. Make sure you keep the beet greens and the beets or you might have to give the salad a different name.

question: do you like beets?

mompoet - I love beets

Sunday, August 26, 2012

blackberries

We are on the Sunshine Coast, visiting with Andy's brother Dave and his wife Pam. Their home here is just beautiful. We are having a lovely time, exploring, swimming, cooking, eating and lounging and enjoying the beautiful view out over the ocean.

On Friday evening we went out for a walk after supper. We brought a bowl and picked blackberries along the way. Blackberry bushes are fierce, with thousands of slanted prickles. People try to keep them cut back, so you often have to perch on the side of a hill, or wade into the brush to get to the good berries. Then you have to find the ripe ones: All of the berries are black, but the ripe ones come off the bush easily. The sour ones hang on tight. So you have to shake hands with 50 blackberries to pick 20 good ones.

Here are some photos of our blackberry adventure, which began around 7:30pm and ended as the light was failing just around 9.




The reward? A brimming bowl of late summer sweetness. We gobbled them Saturday morning with our breakfasts.

question: do you pick blackberries?

mompoet - shaking hands with summer

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

fringeburger

Andy and I went to volunteer training tonight, for the Vancouver Fringe Festival. We're going to be ticket sellers for some Fringe venues. Here's the yummy burger that members of the Fringe staff team cooked up for my supper.


We're pretty impressed - not just with the supper, but with the organization and spirit we felt all around us. We know the shows are excellent. Now we're going to get an insider's perspective on the festival. We hope to see a bunch of shows too.

question: what's your fringeburger?

mompoet - I like doing new things.

flusterbucket

Fiona has been in Toronto since Monday. I miss her a lot. I'm also very curious about what she's doing and how she's feeling. On the surface, I'm pretty calm about the whole thing. After all, this is an amazing experience for her. I'm sure it's stressful but it also has to be a wonderful treat to be immersed in what she loves to do, and surrounded by people who love it too. I am cool with that.

There is, however, evidence that I have been experiencing moments of extreme dunderheaded panic and bewilderment:

1. We left our house Monday at 4:45am, to get Fiona to the airport for 5:30 check-in. We parked at the airport. I got out of the car and checked in my purse for my cell phone. Guess what I found? The cordless phone from my kitchen! Um, I think I brought the wrong phone. So I took it out of my purse and stuck it in the console of my car. Then I forgot about it when I got home, but looked at it and remembered, whenever I was out in the car. On Tuesday evening I finally remembered to get the phone out of my car and back into my kitchen.

2. Tonight I was out with Andy at volunteer orientation for The Vancouver Fringe Festival. What a wonderful night we had! The training was excellent, and we're going to have a splendid Fringe experience. We got home and there was a message on our answering machine. It was a nice long message, and it was from Fiona! But the connection was so bad, her words were all broken up and we couldn't understand anything except, "Love you!" at the end. Darn it! I was totally disappointed and sad and wishing I could unscramble bad phone sound and know what she was saying to us. Blegh!

So now I just have to breathe out and acknowledge that I am jazzed about all this. There's nothing I can do but be calm and patient and try not to haul major appliances out the door. What will be will be.

question: did you ever wish you knew everything about everything right now?

mompoet - sigh...