Thursday, January 31, 2008


1. I’m going to a Martyn Joseph concert tonight! Yay! I love concerts and I LOVE Martyn Joseph!

2. On his online journal, Martyn referred to Winnipeg as “one of his favourite places on the planet”! No, he’s not from here. He’s from Wales. (So there - people from Calgary - you know who you are - SOME people like this place!)

3. One of my new favourite TV shows is called The Border.

4. One of my old favourite shows is Corner Gas.

5. Both are Canadian shows.

6. I’m happy to find good Canadian shows, because we’re not well known for great television programming (with some definite exceptions).

7. One of my favourite movies of this year is also Canadian. Away from Her. See it if you can – it’s definitely worth it.

8. I’m pretty sick and tired of the way this cold weather dries out the skin. I seem to be itchy all of the time.

9. I’m going to Bangladesh in March, and this week I remembered that people in Bangladesh were considered (by some researcher) to be the happiest on the planet. Sounds like a good place to make friends.

10. It’s a delightful moment when your 10-year-old daughter phones you at work and says, “Mom, where are the chocolate chips? I want to make cookies.” Smile. I’m rather fond of her. (Even if she beats me at speed Scrabble.)

11. I heard this line in a Neil Young song yesterday and it made me want to write poetry… “We know where the music is, let’s go out and feel the night.” Hmmm… nice.

12. Neil Young is also a Canadian. We certainly have raised some great talent up here in the cold north.

13. I brought some oatmeal and dried apricots to work this morning and made myself a lovely breakfast (complete with a little milk and a touch of honey). Mmmm… I think I’ll do that more often. I’m not usually hungry for breakfast until I’ve been awake for a couple of hours, so this was perfect.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Because change is as good as a rest

That old blog template was getting tired. Plus I needed a little colour to help fend off the doldrums in the middle of this cold snap we're having.

There are good reasons why the new header doesn't include any recent pictures...It's because you can't see my face these days! That's right - it really is THAT cold!

In other news, thanks to the link from the wonderful-Andrea-who-finds-the-coolest-artsy-stuff-online I made a funky tote bag out of fused plastic bags. I love it! Don't throw away your plastic bags!
If you live in my vicinity and have an abundance of plastic bags, I'd be happy to take them off your hands. The girls are jealous of my funky bag, but I don't have enough shopping bags around the house to make any for them (I've gotten pretty good at bringing my own bags to the store).

Heroes and Sherpas

Have you ever heard of Tenzing Norgay? No?

What about Sir Edmund Hillary? Of course – the great mountain-climber who was the first to reach the top of Mount Everest. We’ve ALL heard of him.

But his greatest accomplishment wasn’t done alone. He may not even have been the first to reach the top.

Tenzing Norgay was his Sherpa. He guided Hillary up that mountain and may have even stepped on the summit first. In his lifetime, he probably spent more time trekking up and down Everest than any other human being. But you probably didn’t hear about him in the history lessons. (An interesting side note: Norgay never learned to read or write, but spoke several languages.)

Which begs the question – how many great heroes throughout history were only heroes because they had the right Sherpas by their side?

And another question - are you called to be a hero or a Sherpa?

Monday, January 28, 2008

We're not perfect

The premise for this show is irking me just a little. (Okay, maybe a lot.) “The Week the Women Went Away.” I haven’t watched the show, so I can’t make any fair judgement on the content, but I am certainly entitled to my opinion about the premise.

When are we going to get past the stereotypes, assuming that men just don’t “get it” when it comes to household chores and raising kids? And that women are just so much superior in those roles (and every other role they put their minds to) that they are indispensable?

My husband has survived just fine without me for up to three weeks at a time. True, the kids’ clothes might not have matched as well, but does that really matter? They were loved and well fed and they’ve often survived various bouts of sickness when I’ve been away (okay, almost EVERY time).

The truth is, I’d probably have a harder time surviving if Marcel went away. There’s a pretty good chance the kids wouldn’t be fed as well – he’s the primary cook in the family. And I might miss a few appointments or soccer practices – he keeps a closer eye on the family’s schedule.

But you won’t see any shows about “the week the men went away”. No – that would be anti-feminist, suggesting women can’t survive without their men.

Why is it that we allow the media to do lots of “father-bashing”, but not an equal amount of “mother-bashing”? Watch the average sit-com (or the myriad of shows aimed at pre-teens on the Family Channel) and you’ll see the typical sit-com family, with a relatively smart mom who holds the family together, and a bumbling fool of a dad who’s more often the comic relief than the stable and wise father-figure.

Is that okay? No, I don’t think so. Perhaps we’ve done ourselves a dis-service by allowing feminism to paint an unrealistic picture of “super-woman” for all of us women to strive toward and by painting an equally unrealistic picture of “un-super-man” for men to be beaten up by.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Just don't put me on a game show

Julie just whupped me in back-to-back games of speed Scrabble. Now she's dancing around the house letting everyone know that apparently Mom is NOT smarter than a fifth grader.


Next time I'm playing against Maddie. The longest word she knows how to spell is "dog".

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The song that goes along with the post below...

Compliments of my very talented brother.... I dare you not to cry.

By the way, if you like it, let me know in the comments. I'll pick one name and send out one of his cds to the lucky winner.

(Ummm... turns out I don't really know how to imbed a song, even though I followed the instructions on Blogger help. You can download the song here. I hope.)

(In case you're new here and don't know the connection, Jack's mom is my sister, a.k.a. ccap.)

Crying on the bus

And then one day, you're on a crowded bus, hugging your duffle bag to your chest because all the seats are full, and the song your brother wrote for two special babies comes onto your mp3 player, and all you can do is let the tears flow even though you have no kleenex to wipe them and people are glancing at you and wondering if they should intrude or leave you all alone in your weepiness.

All you can think about is that season of loss before your particular verse of that song had any inspiration to exist. When you waited for weeks in the hospital, hoping against hope that your little one would see the light of day. And then living through that horrible, horrible moment when the downfallen look on your doctor's face as he looked at the ultrasound told the story you didn't want to hear. Followed by the phone call to your husband at work, when he answered the phone so cheerily and you had to tell him. The. baby. is. dead.

And the most vivid memory the song evokes is that day you first heard the song in your living room and you clung to your sister-in-law in your shared loss and longed for the day when the skies seemed a little more blue for both of you and hope peeked in your window to lighten the shadows of grief and pain.

And those thoughts can only lead you to one place. Jack.

And you pray through your tears, with every ounce of earnestness you can muster, "please PLEASE don't let there be another verse to that song."

And you know without a doubt that if falling to your knees on that bus full of people meant that the prayer had any more power, you would do it in an instant.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I'm sitting here munching on my yummy bran muffin and sipping my morning tea. Because these are quite possibly the best bran muffins in the world, I thought I'd share my recipe. It's one of those recipes that is so well used, the stains on the cookbook page are starting to make it hard to read.

The next time you'd like some bran muffins that are tasty and oh-so-moist, but still low-fat, try these. I'm pretty sure you'll be pleased.

Pumpkin Bran Muffins

¾ cup natural bran
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¾ sugar (last night I used about ½ cup honey instead)
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup cooked pureed pumpkin
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup plain yogurt

In a large bowl; combine bran, flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and raisins. Toss to mix. Add pumpkin, eggs, oil and yogurt. Stir until just combined. Spoon batter into 12 paper-lined or non-stick muffin tins. Bake at 400 F (200 C) oven for 25 minutes or until firm to the touch.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Not so very sad

So apparently yesterday was the saddest day of the year.

Normally, I probably wouldn't disagree with Dr. Arnall about blue Monday in January, but this year's an exception. For one thing, I think I got the January blahs over with in the middle of December when I was so burnt out I could barely think.

Plus I have a trip to look forward to, which always helps to wipe away the blahs. Ah... dreams of curry and saris and warm sunshine and new smells and new tastes and new acquaintences dance through my head.

On top of that, for some reason, I've had an energy burst in the past few days that's gotten me feeling elated rather than blue. I've caught up on so many of the household things that have fallen behind lately that I'm downright proud of myself. Yesterday alone I hemmed 6 pairs of pants and mended 5 more. (Yes, some of us in the household were getting a little desperate in the pants department.) And on the weekend, we finally returned the basement to a liveable state, so I no longer need to stare at the mess and despair that it will ever be presentable again.

I think the energy boost has something to do with the fact that I'm finally eating a little healthier, plus life seems a whole lot more managable at work.

So today I wish you all "happy-day-after-the-saddest-day-of-the-year!" Things can only go up from here!

Friday, January 18, 2008

What the kids know

Nikki (incredulously): "Mom, we're learning about racism at school. Can you believe I was the ONLY kid in the class who knew anything about the Ku Klux Klan? And the ONLY kid who knew that Martin Luther King had been assassinated?"

Sheesh! Aren't those OTHER parents teaching their kids ANYTHING? (She says smuggly, knowing full well that her daughter's love of history came from the OTHER parent in this relationship.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thirteen random things

1. Apparently all I needed to do to fill up my comment box was to say the word “dog” and people start coming out of the woodwork! Thanks for all the helpful advice! Julie will be thrilled. (And I’ll keep you posted.)

2. I’m a little ashamed of myself for not having made any effort to go over and meet the new neighbours who moved next door in November. My goal this weekend is to go say hello.

3. For those of you who miss her witty and “spit-beverages-at-your-screen” hilarious posts, I spoke with Whippersnapper this week. She is alive and well and just doesn’t have much brain power left after teaching and parenting to formulate posts. But she’s reading this one, so if you beg and plead in the comments, we may be able to convince her to come back. (Please, PUH-LEASE Whip! Just do what I do when I’m drained – type the first 13 random thoughts that pop into your head.)

4. I finally wrote something and submitted it to an editor yesterday. I don’t think I’ve managed to do that once in the last year, because all of my energy (and then some) was consumed with a crazy year at work. Even if it doesn’t get published, I’m just happy I’m back in the game.

5. Speaking of work, I updated my workplan last week (wherein I identify my progress on the goals I set a year ago) and MY GOSH I accomplished a lot last year! No WONDER I was completely exhausted by Christmas!

6. I didn’t put it on my workplan, but one of my goals this year is “friendship”. With all the craziness of last year, plus the ongoing craziness of parenting, I invested very little energy into friendship. This year, I’m making it a priority.

7. Remember the creativity retreat I was going to plan? Well, it got put on the back burner last fall (see #5 for the reason), but after I get back from India, I’m going to try to pull it together. One of the people who is eagerly anticipating it bugged me about it yesterday and I committed to her that I would follow through.

8. Did I mention that we managed to hire someone into the vacant position on my team? Woohoo!

9. The pieces are beginning to fall into place for my trip – one week in Bangladesh and one week in India. We have a weekend of spare time in between, where we’re flying from Dhaka to Kolkata to Patna. If anyone has been there, can you tell me which of those three places would be the most interesting to spend the weekend?

10. Either my daughters REALLY like muffins or they are so surprised to see mom suddenly bake that they’re humouring me just to make sure it happens again. Two batches disappeared faster than I could make more.

11. There’s a stack of about 300 receipt letters sitting on my desk waiting to be signed. I think I’ll have a sore wrist by the end of the day.

12. I love picking Nikki up after her practices with the developmental soccer team. She’s not normally very talkative, but there’s something about these practices (I think it has a lot to do with good, encouraging coaches) that turns her into an animated, chatty girl.

13. A year ago, I was in Ethiopia where it was SOooo warm. Unfortunately, around here this week, it’s SOOooo cold.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


It's no secret that I'm not much of a pet lover. At best, I'm a pet tolerator. It's not that I have NEVER loved a pet. Oh I could wax poetic about how I used to love to ride our beautiful and fast horse, Prince. I could probably even conjure up tears - or at least a lump in my throat - if I thought long and hard about what it was like to lose Curly, our longtime family dog. And I remember with fondness what fun it used to be to hunt for the new kittens on the farm, when we were certain Snappy had given birth to yet another litter.

But in my adult years, I have never wanted a pet. I have to be honest - caregiving is not one of my greatest skills. I'm just happy I managed to keep three kids alive - I'm not sure I want to have the survival of yet another creature (that's not even part of my bloodline) reliant on me for its care.

And yet... here's the really scary part... are you ready for it? We are considering getting a dog. Yeah, let that sink in for awhile.

You see, if I don't consider it, Julie may go through life believing I am an ogre of a parent, depriving her of her heart's desire all these years. And I'm not sure I want to live with that legacy. (Though if she starts asking me to help provide the kind of pet care Michele has had to live with in the last couple of years, I think I'll stick with being an ogre.)

Julie's Christmas list looked something like this:


You get the picture.

She has become obsessed with this singular goal in life. At Christmas time I told her "well, if we were to get a dog, it wouldn't be in the dead of winter. Ask me again in the Spring." And then I told her, "if this is something you're serious about, then you need to do some research to find the right breed of dog for our family - one that won't shed and mess with your dad's allergies, one that won't require constant attention and frequent exercise, that's good with kids, etc."

Well, since she heard that tiny offering of hope, she has done little else but research dogs. She is fast becoming an encyclopedia of dog breeds. At first, she wanted an American Eskimo, but that long hair looks like it would end up all over the house (keep in mind that this is a girl who doesn't even like to brush her OWN hair, so I'm not convinced she'd do the weekly grooming required.) Then she began to set her sites on a Pug.

So, here's the thing... I know alot of you are fond of pets. In fact, I think that among my blog readership, I am seriously outnumbered in my lack of deep affection for pets. So I need your advice...

1. What would be the best breed of dog for a family like ours, that tends to be a little on the lazy and "less-than-meticulous" side? (I need a non-shedder who's okay with not being walked half a dozen times a day.)
2. Which breeds are good with children?
3. What's the one thing you wish you'd known before committing to having a dog around the house?
4. Is it possible to have a dog trained well enough that it can go 8 hours without having to go outside? I'm really not interested in a pet that will dramatically impact our schedules.

And speaking of pets, hearing Andrea talk about her love for her recently-departed dog Zappa has definitely given me moments when I've thought "hmmm... I wonder what it would be like to love a pet like that?" You really should check out her new painting of Zappa. I love it when she shows the progress a painting goes through before the final product emerges.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The stain etched on our hope

I have a new little nephew hoping to be born in a few months. His name is Jack. I saw his ultrasound picture today - his curved head and his round belly and what looked like bubbles being blown from his mouth. I also saw his undeniable male-hood. (Apparently he's not as shy about showing off his private parts as his cousin Matthew was.)

We pray for Jack's safe journey into this world. We pray for a miracle. We pray for continued hope. Please pray with us. We need a boy in the family - a boy who will live and live well. Who will tease his sisters and cousins. And make his daddy grin.

Here's the beginning of Jack's story - a story we hope will be long and interesting.

Today I cried for you

I had ideas for posts last night, but then a phone call came that wiped everything else from my mind. A few hours later, when I finally had a moment alone on a computer, what came spilling out was this...


hands lost in soapy water
I glimpse the reflection in the window
a face that looks older than it did
an hour ago
before your call

tears dripping
I scrub pots and pans
and wish

the stain etched on your hope
washed away as easily
as the remnants of today's supper

p.s. The story is not mine to share, but if you are the praying type, whisper a prayer for pain unspoken.

Monday, January 07, 2008

May there be peace

I've been feeling a little heartsick about what's been happening in Kenya. When you've walked on the soil of a country and let yourself be touched by its people, you can never again ignore the news of that country quite as casually as you did before. In the past three years, I've been touched by many Kenyans, and with them, I grieve the turmoil their country is in.

I think of Esther, who gave me the beautiful earrings I'm wearing today. A woman of great wisdom and compassion, who sees the beauty in prisoners and prostitutes and dedicates her life to helping them find wholeness and hope. May she be safe today.

I think of Fidelis, who speaks boldly and with passion, challenging rich North Americans to set aside their arrogance and self-assuredness and not assume they have the answers for Africa. A woman who teaches farmers that their own ingenuity and strength can build a better country. May she sleep peacefully tonight.

I think of Daniel, who's here in Canada, far from his family. A young man who wants to use his skills as a teacher to offer hope and a future to young students. I think of his sister Agnes, still in Kenya, whose shy smile brought me great pleasure. May they both rest assured that they will see each other again some day.

I think of Paulina, who so humbly and graciously welcomed me into her mud hut and offered me friendship. May she hold her children close and not fear for their safety.

I think of beautiful and bold Sheila, studying for her masters degree in Canada so that she can work for a better future for people living with HIV/AIDS. Sheila, who comes from Kisumu where much of the violence started. May she know that her family is safe.

I exchanged emails with my Nairobi-based uncle last week. He and his family are safe and their lives have not been dramatically impacted (though they can't go very far from home), but I know that his heart - that is so full of love for Africa - is hurting a little too.

May there be peace in Kenya. May there be bridges built between tribes and political parties. May goodness prevail over evil.

Friday, January 04, 2008

In Cahoots

Quite awhile ago, some of you might recall I posted some interview questions for an article I was doing on blogging. Many of you were kind enough to respond to my questions. I used your quotes, and the article was accepted by Cahoots Magazine. It took them awhile to use it, and then they went through a transition in which they switched from a paper magazine to an ezine, so the article became a little dated (Karla's baby was still growing in her tummy, and now he's a year old already!), but here it is nonetheless.

But don't stop there... make sure you check out the companion story by Karla. What fun it is to be published together with one of my favourite blog friends (who also happens to be a great writer)!

By the way, if you're visiting through a link on the Cahoots page, please be kind and leave a friendly comment. I love to know where visitors come from!

Be sure to bookmark Cahoots. It is one of my favourite magazines (one of the only things I read cover to cover when it shows up at my door) and I'm positive you won't be disappointed with the electronic version.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I resolve to

- listen to good music
- read good books
- engage in stimulating conversations
- let go of regret
- go for long walks
- seek peace
- be kind
- pursue friendship
- encourage boldness
- pause to gaze at dandelions
- forgive others
- forgive myself
- savour delicious food
- walk gently on the earth
- light candles
- be inspired by others
- embrace the ordinary
- let beauty surprise me
- watch my children play
- stare at snowflakes
- smile at strangers
- get my feet wet
- give something away
- pray
- take pictures
- play in the rain with my daughters
- take a risk
- let people change me
- listen to stories
- go for dates with my husband
- create something new
- pause
- taste a new food
- gaze with wonder out of a plane window
- wait contentedly
- be available
- limit my expectations
- ask cab drivers to tell me stories of their home countries
- drink water
- sit by a campfire
- be open to surprises
- ask good questions
- reduce, reuse, recycle

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Tomorrow I have to go back to work. Sigh. I want another week of holidays.

Here's what I did:
- went skating with my kids
- went bowling with my extended family
- celebrated Christmas Eve at Marcel's sister's place
- celebrated Christmas Day at my sister's place
- watched Julie bake and decorate a birthday cake for Auntie ccap
- ate a couple of good meals at my mom's place
- went to a movie with my siblings
- went to a couple of movies with my kids and assorted nieces and nephews
- watched 5 soccer games
- ate lots of great food at the annual New Year's Eve brunch at church
- ate lots of great food at the Prairie Bounty open house
- went to see the New Year's Eve fireworks
- slept late almost every morning
- tore out the remainder of the ugly carpet
- painted the floor
- painted the walls
- played some lame computer games
- played some less-lame board games
- partook of the annual "candy and pop" breakfast on New Year's Day with my daughters (do you know that Coke at 9:30 in the morning makes me sick to my stomach?)
- took lots of long baths

Here's what I didn't do:
- Christmas baking
- much cooking
- read anything more intellectually stimulating than People magazine or Reader's Digest
- visit the shopping mall - not for Christmas shopping nor for "Boxing Day Blowout" sales
- blog
- clean the house
- have any company over

Happy New Year everyone!