Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Not exactly breaking the bank

I got a cheque in the mail for $50. For a poem that’s about to be published. Guess that makes me a bon-a-fide poet! Unless you count the 75 cents that was my cut when they passed the hat at a poetry reading many years ago, that’s the first time I’ve gotten paid for poetry. I’ve had a few published before, but never for payment.

I don’t write many poems these days, so I don’t really think of myself as a poet. This particular poem was written about 10 years ago. It was accepted for publication about 5 years ago, and since the magazine went on hiatus for a few years (I think they ran out of money – it’s hard to keep literary mags afloat), they only got around to publishing it now.

Clearly, poetry is not a very lucrative business. I won’t quit my day job.

(In case you’re going to ask to see the poem, I can’t show you until it appears in print. It turns out that if something appears on a blog, it is considered “published”. I learned that the hard way when another publication was going to accept a piece I’d written, but they took the time to Google it, found it on my blog, and turned it down because they only accept unpublished work.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Buzzheads and other beauties

Without knowing the other one was doing it, these two simultaneously got buzz cuts.
My sunglasses are not nearly as cool as my daughter's! But at least I have a cool hat.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Where the wild things aren't

We went camping this past weekend. On every trip to the bathroom or the beach, and every time my young niece wanted to go for a walk or my daughter wanted to go for a bike ride, we would stop along the path to pick plump purple wild saskatoons. They were delicious. (If you’ve never had them, they’re a little like blueberries, but they grow in trees instead of small bushes close to the ground.) Other than an unfortunate encounter with a bee, the girls enjoyed the opportunity to pillage the woods. What was almost second nature to me – to pluck a ripe fruit out of the bush along the path – was rather novel for them.

Though I’m not planning to move out of the city any time soon, some days I lament the fact that my children have so little opportunity to enjoy things in the wild. I spent many of the summers of my childhood looking for wild things. In the Spring, we hunted through last year’s grass to try to spot the first fuzzy purple crocus to poke its way to the surface. A little later in the season, we’d wander the fields looking for wild tiger lilies or bright orange cowslips. Along our driveway, the bush was lavishly dotted with soft pink wild roses. Those were a little more tricky to pick, though, because of the thorns. We felt especially lucky when we’d stumble on wild ladyslippers in the cattle pasture – but we always heeded the warning of my older brother who said that those should NOT be picked because they were becoming endangered.

Then there were the fruits of the wild – chokecherries along the path to the barn, wild raspberries along “raspberry lane” where we’d ride our bikes to the field to bring dad his lunch, wild saskatoons, and occasionally – when we were lucky – wild strawberries.

Wild animals were mostly for looking at (like the wild beaver that inexplicably made its way to our dugout, miles from a stream or river), but occasionally even those were fair game for the capture. I remember standing at the base of a tree where my older brothers had instructed me to guard a raccoon while they went back to the farmyard for a box. I shirked my duties, though, when the raccoon started coming down the tree – I think I beat my brothers to the farmyard.

My kids are completely “citified” (wow – spell check says that’s a word!). Almost everything they come into contact with is domesticated or tame. Fruit only comes from the store (with a few exceptions, like the raspberry bushes at their grandparents’ house); and flowers are either planted in the flower beds, bought at the florist, or mowed over with the lawnmower. And wild creatures? Well, you should see the way they react to bugs that get in the car! Oy veh!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Seasons change

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 3

I’m reading a book called “Leaving Church”. It’s a personal memoir about Barbara Brown Taylor’s experience of giving up the priesthood.

Though I didn’t realize the serendipity at the time, I bought the book with a gift certificate I’d gotten when I ended my tenure as an elder at our church. (No – in case any GNFers are getting worried – I’m not “leaving church”, I’m just stepping away from leadership.)

For everything there is a season. It’s time for me to step away and enter other seasons. Not only am I not an elder anymore (the highly skilled Krista is picking up the mantle), I’ve also given up doing announcements and welcomes. Basically, I’m stepping out of any leadership or public persona role and slipping into an “anonymous churchgoer” role. And that’s the way I want it for now.

It feels like a time for other things. I need a season for focusing on my writing a little more. Maybe a season for taking some art courses – pottery, painting, photography – I’m not sure what yet. Mostly, I’m hoping it will be a season for creativity. And maybe a little rest.

I’m not sure what other changes the coming year will bring. When I started this job, I’d told myself I would give it at least 5 years. After that, Marcel would be finished university and I might be able to consider other options. This is my fifth year. Marcel doesn’t have a full-time job yet, but he makes a pretty decent living as a substitute teacher.

I still love my job, and honestly? I could see myself quite happily spending another 5 years here if it came to that. I’m in no rush to leave. But I’m also ready to open myself up to new possibilities. I’ve done a lot of really amazing things in the 4+ years I’ve been here, and I’m pretty confident I’ve left a positive mark on the organization, so I could walk away if it felt right to do so.

At this point, though, I’m in no rush to move into anything new. I’m going to enjoy the summer, sign up for a class or two in the fall, and maybe find a little more time and space for some writing. And in the meantime, I’m going to say “no” to almost anything anyone asks me to do for church.

Friday, July 18, 2008

She likes me, she really likes me

When I get home from work these days, Maddie likes to talk. And talk. Incessantly. We go for a bike ride – she talks. I do laundry – she talks. I wash the supper dishes – she talks. I try to get her to go to bed – she talks.

Yesterday she was telling me about a show she’d watched with her sisters. I think it’s called Wife Swap? (Where 2 women switch homes for a week.) Apparently one of the families lived a rather chaotic and crazy lifestyle and liked pretending they were pirates. The other family was much more structured and organized and the wife and daughter were more into girlie things.

I asked her “so… if I were to switch with another mom for a week, what kind of woman would you want it to be?”

“Well,” she said, and thought about it for awhile. “Someone kinda organized, but still a lot of fun.” And then she smiled. “Just like you.”

Good answer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another year, another Folk Fest

Another great weekend is behind us. We danced, we ate whales' tails, we listened to good music, we tried to hide from the rain, we dreamed about buying funky (but too expensive) clothes from the handmade village, we wandered, we mused, we got muddy, we talked to friends, we people-watched, we pointed out all the old regulars, we reminisced about the over 20 years of history we'd seen in this place, we shared moments with our offspring who've attended every year of their lives... aaahhhh, we had fun. It's always such a let-down to see it end.

Just a few memories to hang onto as we go through withdrawal... (As you can see, we enjoyed a wide variety of weather.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Music to a mother's ears

Our kids have had to stay at home alone for much of this week, because Marcel is taking some French upgrading and I've been at work. I wasn’t sure how that was going to go. They’ve been alone at home before, but never for a few days in a row like this.

Well, it turns out I needn’t have worried.

Yesterday I phoned home to find out how Maddie was (she’d been sick during the night), and Julie said, rather matter-of-factly “yeah, she puked this morning. But it’s no big deal. I cleaned it up.” When I asked if I should come home, she said “Nah, we’ve got things under control.”

In the afternoon, I phoned home again, and Nikki said “well, we’ve already cleaned the bathroom and the living room and now we’re working on the basement. We sent Maddie upstairs for a nap because she wasn’t helping.”

Today I phoned home and Julie said “I thought we’d like some treats for the Folk Festival this weekend, so I’ve baked some chocolate chip cookies and now I’m going to make some brownies. For the chocolate chip cookies, I split the recipe in half because I wanted to add white chocolate to some.”

How’dya like that? Despite my many parenting doubts and the occasional screw-ups, they’re turning out alright!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I’ve put it off as long as possible, but now I must face the inevitable. I grit my teeth, brace myself, and plunge in. I know I will face rocky seas, disgruntled people, awkward conversations, and lots of uncomfortable moments. I know I will have to say some fairly harsh things, and probably hear a few harsh responses. I will try to be gentle, but I have to balance that out with cold, hard honesty.

It’s performance appraisal time.

This is the moment of every year that I would prefer not to be a manager.

Friday, July 04, 2008


1. Maddie learned to ride a two-wheeler bike this week. Based on the less-than-pleasant experiences of teaching her sisters (cringe), I was dreading having to teach her, but she was much more relaxed about it (perhaps it’s a youngest child thing?) and it turned out to be fun and surprisingly easy.

2. I like to think of myself as a fairly tolerant person. I don’t yell at bad drivers (maybe they’re distracted because they just found out a family member died) and I try to give rude salespeople the benefit of the doubt (maybe their mother was never kind to them and they didn’t have a good role model). BUT… there are a few things I just can’t tolerate. Littering is one of them. On Tuesday (Canada Day), I saw three people casually toss garbage on the ground and walk away. COME ON PEOPLE! Let’s not be stupid!

3. Only one week until Folk Festival!

4. Maddie dropped in at the office this morning to donate the bag full of the change she’s been saving for months. She wanted to give it to the poorest country in the world – “because they don’t have enough food and they often have to drink dirty water”. I guess she WAS listening when I came home with stories of the people I’ve met in my travels! Ah, it swells a mother’s heart.

5. A few weeks ago, I went to a blogging workshop at a Christian writers’ conference (without having researched the presenter first). The blogger leading the workshop was shockingly right-wing, and what I’ve seen of her blog since is mostly anti-Muslim (with a little anti-gay thrown in for good measure) rhetoric - some of it frighteningly hateful. She has a large readership and it fills me with uneasiness that there are so many people who sing her praises. It also fills me with uneasiness that she was applauded at a “Christian” writers’ conference. (I could say more about that conference – but I'll save that for another time.)

6. I’ve actually had time to sew this week. What fun! I’m finally putting my lovely Indian fabric to good use. Nikki has a new dress, and Julie has a shirt and capri pants. Maddie’s next. Watch for the family in the funky Indian tie-died clothes at Folk Festival!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Summer time and the livin' is easy

Notice any difference between the months? In June, we had to colour code the calendar because there were so many days that two or three family members had to be in different places at the same time. And July? Well, we flipped the page, and suddenly there is a blank slate ahead of us. Ahhhhh... how I love blank slates!

We started off on the right foot with a trip to the beach yesterday, and a family bike trip to the Forks for Canada Day celebrations today. (That's a 22 kilometre round trip! The longest we've done as a family.)

It's hot, hot, hot, and we're tired, tired, tired (in fact, Marcel is lying on the couch next to me snoring right now), but we're oh so happy that it's summer!

Happy Canada Day and Happy Summer!