Monday, 30 January 2012

what I didn't have time for

As a writing deadline approaches (9:00 am Jan. 30), I start to get antsy and protective of my time. I think I don't have time for some things. Because I'm notorious for under-guessing how long something will take me.

Yesterday afternoon, as I thought about all I had yet to do, here's what I didn't have time for:

Hopping on the wagon,
chains on wheels,
skates on feet,
dog on laps,
snow on tongues
for the trek back to the swamp in the gravel pit.

Metal blades on light snow,
the air fresh
the water frozen under our feet,
bumpy ripples from last week's rain

I remember this feeling.
the magic of walking on water
wondering what's underneath
when will I fall through (and I did)
and the wet walk home
and of course the hot chocolate
and crackling fire

the pirouettes
figure eights
sudden stops
the falls

snow falling softly
no line where land meets sky

the scrape of plastic, clearing a path
the rhythmic song of metal to ice
swish, swish, swish,

weaving between bullrushes
blades on ice
falling down
like snow
this dance
this ballet of learning to skate
accepting each fall

peek at my watch
we must go
yet this --
this is not wasted time
to stand beneath winter sky
on frozen pond
and delight

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

starbucks stories

Over the past 2 weeks, I've made the local Starbucks my part-time office. I like the white noise, the music, the free wifi, and the chai latte.

But some days the white noise has been more colourful than others. Some days it's pretty dull - which is exactly what I need to get some writing projects done. It's less distracting than the messes in my home. But the other day - boy. The distracting characters abounded.

Like the woman in her 50s who was talking really loudly to her dad about the intestinal infection that was spreading through her household, making her daughter faint because of low blood pressure, and making her question the wisdom of eating fries at Arby's. She wasn't sure if she was done with the infection (SO WHY ARE YOU SITTING IN A PUBLIC PLACE??), and she was warning her dad that sometimes it comes out both ends. Helpful advice. She was also planning a Chinese New Year's party and wanted to make sure that someone was picking up the oranges. She also wanted to make a creamy dessert using Grand Marnier. She teaches Latin at a local high school.

Or the man who was having some sort of business meeting with a woman about his age (early 30s). He was acting as a mentor of sorts to her, encouraging her in many ways. They're both in sales. He talked loudly. They are married, but not to each other. Both were professionally dressed; she wore high black leather boots. At one point he said to her, "I really like those boots. They're hot. They're like schwing!" WHAT?? He went on to describe someone they work with who has a nice body, but has dry hair and doesn't use the potential that she has in her looks. PARDON?? I wonder what he thought of my unruly hair and not-so-put-together outfit.

So maybe I've found my next calling. To spend hours in Starbucks and eavesdrop on other people's conversations then write about them. Could be a hobby anyway. If you're siting near me and you don't want your story recorded, just let me know. I'll be the one in the corner typing or scribbling furiously, making it look like I'm really getting a lot of work done.

Monday, 23 January 2012

me, the imposter

I haven't written for awhile. And thank you to those of you who have asked if I'm ok. Yep - I'm fine. Just a crapload of writing deadlines in the last week. Deadlines, presentations, all good things but converging at once.

That's part of the story. But not the whole thing.

Here's the other part: I really questioned if I have anything of value to say. 

And here's why: I read a really good article online, written by a mother of 3 young children - a woman who blogs every day. AND IT WAS REALLY, REALLY GOOD. Like I mean really good.

So good that it made me really question what the heck I think I'm doing. Why am I blogging? What's the purpose? How come I only have 2 young kids and can't write a kick-butt post like that one?

I have these 2 creatures on my shoulders. Are they on your shoulders too?

That gremlin on one side whispering slyly,

"Who do you think you are? 
You're not good enough.

And that encouraging coach on the other side shouting,

"You can do it!
Try something new!
Stretch yourself!

But even though that coach is shouting right in my ear, I let that whisper overwhelm me sometimes. Like last week. That gremlin won. He said,

"You don't have one single unique thought that's worth writing or blogging about. There are so many writers who are so much better than you. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE???"

My husband and I led a workshop on Saturday. As we were driving there in the morning, I said to him, "Do you ever feel like you're an imposter? Like you really don't know what the heck you're talking about? And someone's going to find out? What do we have to say to all of these people who have so much more wisdom than we do? WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE??"

I compare myself to others (like this mom blogger) and I get jealous and feel unworthy. I feel like a fraud. And I hate those yucky things inside of me: comparing myself to others, judging myself, and feeling jealous. But they're definitely there. There are some blogs I don't even look at anymore because they make me feel jealous and inadequate.

And I know this Marianne Williamson quote. I've had it posted in my room for years.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

I know this. Of course I do. But some weeks I have big doubts. And I believe the line I tell myself that at best, I'll be mediocre. That I'm just an imposter.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

cherishing me

is the hardest thing to do sometimes. It's much easier to direct this word "cherish" at my family members, and at time in general. Cherish the moments. Cherish my children. Cherish my husband.

But I want to start the year with cherishing me. Which sounds really selfish to my ears, but oh well. This expression exactly fits what goes on at our house: when mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. So I know I have to cherish myself, look after myself, or I'm no good to anybody else. But I often forget.

a cherished Christmas gift: a friend made me this wheat bag with my word for 2012 sewn on.
Amazing, eh?
My birthday happened to come along this week, so I always get to kick-start the new year with New Year's goals and with reflecting on a new age. They go hand in hand.

So here are some ways I cherished me on my birthday:

* bought and ate a pain au chocolat. Mmmm. Memories of France.

how do I love thee...
* bought Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, a book I've wanted to read for over a year.
* read for 1/2 hour.
* made myself a chocolate hazelnut torte for my birthday. Ate some of it.
* bought 5 canoli to eat at supper. Ate one.
* saw my sister, niece, and a good friend.
* had 2 lovely hours to myself. Enjoyed.
* phoned my husband to ask him to buy me a chai latte.
* drank my chai latte as I watched my daughters swim and felt so proud.
* roasted a chicken, stuffed with orange slices, garlic, parsley, butter, and onions. Ate some.

* laughed a lot with my family during the meal.

* had Shegofa make henna designs all over my left hand.

* got a great romantic comedy ("Something Borrowed") from the library. Watched it and laughed.

So from this list, this is what "cherishing me" meant yesterday: eating mostly chocolate themed foods; buying and reading a book; having some solo time; having someone lavish my hand with henna; spending time with people I love; having some downtime to watch a movie.

How do you cherish you?

P.S. Here's my absolute favourite cake recipe. It's easy and light and delicious and chocolate.

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte

Place these ingredients in the blender:

4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
Then add 1 cup hazelnuts and blend well.
Add 2 T flour and 2.5 tsp baking powder. Mix well.

Divide batter between two greased 8 inch round cake pans (about 350ml of batter in each pan). Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.

While you're waiting, place these ingredients in the blender:

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp instant coffee
1.5 cups whipping cream
Blend until thickened. Cut each cake layer in half horizontally (it's a bit difficult - use a serrated knife - but it's well worth the effort when you have 4 layers of chocolatey goodness). Spread the cream mixture between each layer and ice the whole cake. (I've sometimes had to make a bit more cream icing to cover the entire cake).


Monday, 9 January 2012

tools for 2012

I know that New Year's was over a week ago, but here I am still talking about it. I think it's the return to school today that has me dreaming about new routines and goals.

Over the weekend, we talked about some of our goals for 2012 as a family. Zoe wants to make more friends. Eden wants to help poor people and would like to do people's nails and do face-painting in order to raise money for them.

Eden had 4 main goals: help poor people, invite Nolan over, get to reading level C, and go in a play. She also wants to marry Nolan. I suggested that this goal might not be attainable in 2012, so she wrote "Big Goals" above that one.

And me? My word for this year is "cherish" - and I'd like to spend more time consciously doing this. More on that in another post. One of my goals is to finish projects, which I talked about in a previous post. Another hope is moving to a new house - both Derek and I feel ready for this (we don't always agree on everything, but on this - we seem to have come to an understanding). Not sure what that will look like yet, but perhaps this is the year. Yet another goal: publish. I'd like to publish something outside of the Mennonite world this year. That was one of my goals last year, and it led to me starting this blog and taking a job mid-year as a web writer for an adoption agency. So who knows where it will lead this year.

Do you get into this goal-setting, or do the January blues kick in for you? Here are a couple of fun tools that friends have passed on to me. Perhaps they will help you too to ring in the new year. Click away!

2012 Declutter and Organize Calendar (with Sundays off!) Brilliant and doable. I've got one printed off already.

Unravelling the Year Ahead 2012: Susannah Conway leads a wonderful e-course (I've taken 2 of them so far!) and has this free downloadable to help chart your path in 2012, including choosing a word for the year. The geeky part of me just loves little exercises like this.

Setting goals with kids: Three Stars for 2012. If you happen to have a child who wants to save the world, and another who wants to make a friend, perhaps working through goals for the year could be of use. It helped in our household, anyway.

If one of your goals is more quiet, read this New York Times article: The Joy of Quiet by Pico Iyer. It's a keeper.

Read this New Year's prayer of hope written by Carol Penner.

Have you heard of Women's Christmas? I hadn't until a friend told me about it yesterday. It's an Irish custom, called Nollaig Na mBan, and it's celebrated on the day of epiphany - January 6th. The whole point of this day was for the weary women, who carried the weight of the household chores and responsibilities, to have a day off after the hustle and bustle of the holidays. The men would tend the hearth while the women retreated/partied.

If you're interested in learning more, Jan Richardson has developed Journey of a Traveling Heart: A Retreat for Women's Christmas. Here's the great part: you don't have to do it on January 6th! You can make time for this when it suits - and do it solo or in a group of women. Jan has some great questions - about journeying through this year and the unique gifts we can offer. She includes her poetry and artwork in it too - it's a treat to look through it. I'll be printing this one off soon too. And maybe next year I'll host a Women's Christmas.

One last thing: a beautiful song written by Bobby McFerrin to listen to as you take a quiet moment (although I guess technically music doesn't equal quiet). It's called "Psalm 23" and it is dedicated to his mother.

Wishing you strength for the journey...

Friday, 6 January 2012

holiday memories

It's been such a wonderful holiday time. I was looking over our photos from the past few weeks, and thought I'd share a few highlights.

chocolate fondue and Sound of Music on Christmas Eve
Eden got her wish: an orange she could drink out of
playing a new game on Christmas morning (while Mommy read a book in bed)
someone wants to join the party
knotting Shegofa's first quilt
a beautiful snowy night
when a snowman appeared on our lawn

What were your holiday highlights?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

laughing at the future

Usually around this time of year, I reflect back on all that has happened to me in the past year - births, deaths, surprises along the way, pain, tears, laughter, and growth.

And it makes me squint a little as I try to make out the future for this year. I wonder: what's coming? If I were a character in Lord of the Rings, let's just say, and I was crossing a difficult mountain path and an evil sorcerer had cast a spell that whipped up one heck of a winter storm - I'd be very much squinting, holding my hands over my eyes even, trying to see the path in front of me, trying to figure out whether to press on - risk slipping off the cursed mountain - or attempt something equally as frightening - make my way through the underground mines.

OK. That was a bit dramatic. But do you know what I mean? I kind of welcome, but mostly am a little scared of, the future. Because what if something comes along that I wasn't prepared for? ('Cause that's life, right?) And what if? That's the biggest question: WHAT IF.

I was reminded of this verse in Proverbs 31:25 about a "capable wife",

"Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come."

Laughing at the future. That's what I want to do this year. Maybe it will even be a maniacal laugh. Sorry - I just saw The Muppets in the theatre yesterday (which was hilarious and fabulous and I laughed A LOT!). OK - perhaps not maniacal laughter, but a laugh that knows that things will be OK - whatever comes. That strength will come too.

I used to laugh a lot - especially in high school and university years - but I've serious-ed up a lot. And I'd like to get that laugh back. Because I think it's a better approach to the day, let alone the year. To laugh at the future. Even the unknown.

Monday, 2 January 2012


At the beginning of a new year, I'm thinking about finishing.

I've been puttering away at de-cluttering for the last while, and coming across some buried projects that were started and never finished. Quilt patches from a project I started oh, about 18 years ago. A Christmas table runner that I started maybe 11 years ago - just needs a bit of quilting and a binding. So close, but yet so far. A great recycled jean project that I saw in a magazine - a mat - that's ALMOST done. It just needs a binding. A couple of quilt tops that are waiting to be quilted or knotted. A hooking project that's 3/4 done that I started in France 2 years ago. Some good intentioned gifts for family members that never quite got done or mailed off. And a nice pile of mending that's been migrating all over my bedroom for many months.

What is my problem with finishing? So strange. I guess it's because there's just something so FINAL about it. This sometimes happens to me when I'm reading a book too. I'll stall near the end. Or I'll have 4 books on the go, each one half-read.

I can relate to this quote:

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it. -- Greg Anderson

So yesterday on January 1st, I tackled that mending pile. I was determined to finish it. And I did! The whole pile - 12 articles - stitching up holes, attaching buttons - done in the time it took to watch a movie.

pile of mending - FINISHED!

What a great feeling!

And here's another idea I'm going to try for this new year. Every other Friday when both my daughters are in school will be FINISH UP FRIDAY. My sister and I will go to my mom's and work on finishing. Growing up, I'd often get my mom to finish my sewing projects. The plan is not to get her to do the work for me, but to have a time and a space dedicated to these lingering projects. I'm hoping that this unfinished project pile will be non-existent by the end of this year. And I hope I don't start too many other projects that end up sitting for years, just waiting. Wishful thinking? Well, isn't that what New Year's all about?