The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

30 November 2009


Years ago, a young girl won the first in a long series of an American singing contest reality tv show. Her first album came out, entitled Thankful. I remember reading the liner notes, and really liking a line she wrote at the end of a long list of people she thanked for getting her to that point. She said that if there was anyone she had overlooked, to charge it to her head, not her heart.

This came to mind because the daily readings of late have had a theme of gratitude. It seems to me that gratitude is particularly important when times are tough. It's good to remember that everything we have is a gift.

It's when times seem very hard, that I realize gratitude requires trust. I am grateful for everything, even the challenges, but I can only be grateful because I believe that God has not abandoned me, has not forgotten me, nor is He trying to break me. I trust that He's got the bigger picture, and that He is, fundamentally, love. Not hallmark love (soft and mushy), pizza love (in the way we love everything ie. "I love Clive Owen" "I love apple pie" "I love crocheting") or even the love we feel for each other.

I know some of you readers very well, and I love you. But if you were to hurt me in some way, or we lost touch over time, that love would the very least be bruised. God's love endures, and it is personal. It isn't always gentle or kind, but it endures, and it is specific to each of us. He loves Anita because He knows her. He loves Carly because He created her. He loves Sharon because He really sees her. He loves Olga because He's part of her. He created us, as individuals and that is a very personal, intimate, aware act. He doesn't just love humanity in an impartial "gee, I did a good job there" kind of way an inventor would feel about his gadget coming off an assembly line. His hand is on each of us, when life is boring or hard, or absolutely perfect.

Every aspect of our life is touched by God. He is present in every day, every moment. His love is alive in a baby resting under its mother's heart in the womb; He looks at us through the eyes of the broken man begging for change on the Church steps.

I've had to remind myself of this many times. There is a longing in my heart to have a clear mission of purpose in life. I want to be used for something important. Instead, my life is small, and getting smaller all the time. To look at me, from the surface, you would think I am being diminished. However, I know that is not the truth of it, and I am reminded again and again to give thanks, to be grateful.

There is a litany in the book of Daniel, which illustrates how even the simplest of God's creation gives Him glory by praising Him according to its nature:

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord

Praise and exalt Him above all forever;

Bless the Lord, you heavens

Praise and exalt Him above all forever;

Bless the Lord, sun and moon...

Bless the Lord, rain and dew; fire and heat; nights and days; mountains and hills; whales...birds...beasts...seas and rivers...

Bless the Lord, you sons of men... you servants of the Lord... spirits and souls of the righteous... you who are holy and humble of heart...

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.

Bless Him, all who worship the Lord, the God of gods,

Sing praise to Him, and give thanks to Him,

For His mercy endures forever.

So, I suppose that is my purpose, my mission: I bless Him, worship Him, sing praise to Him, give thanks to Him.

28 November 2009

She may not be Oprah, but if Ellen says so...

In this neck of the woods there is a regional magazine that promotes what I would call ... umm ... an exclusive lifestyle. They do not run advertisements for dinner at Denny's, let's put it that way.

For example, in their helpful list of Christmas gift ideas, they suggest:

Whether sauntering around the spa, cruise ship or home, Okab flip flops made from recycled material massage your feet as you walk and provide arch support. Also, daytime talk show host Ellen endorses them and that's the next best thing to Oprah. $44.95 a pair.

Now, I don't know about you, but the next time I schlep around the decks of a cruise ship, I want to be schlepping in some overpriced made-from-thrown-away-other-people's-junk flip flops.

Our media maven friend over at Harpo inc, on the other hand, has her own magazine, the holiday issue of which (ironically has Ellen on the cover) features nifty gift suggestions of $120 clutch purses to give to your very best friend. Or $80 bath soap for your mail delivery person. Great! Good to know there are such bargains to be found in these days of economic down turn.

My holiday recommendation? Spend time with family and friends. Have a really nice meal. Think about how you can help someone in your community. Be sure to wish people a happy Christmas - we can all use reminding just what holiday it is we're celebrating. Christmas is about giving, but the thing given doesn't have to cost a cent. Or support your arches.

PS. Another suggestion (not endorsed by a talk show host) is a $10 jar of peanut butter. With banana mixed in.'s jungle banana. Which probably makes it worthwhile, right? Elvis, as we all know, loved his pb+b sandwiches, but our lives are so busy now, to-ing and fro-ing, that you probably never have time to slice the banana yourself, and have to make do with plain old peanut butter. This is your lucky day! Now the banana (ever noticed how mushy banana gets? And how quickly it goes brown?) is right there in the jar. Just scoop it up with all that peanutty goodness.

26 November 2009

Sodding greer

I watched an interesting piece from Australian 60 minutes, about women who have taken what the feminists fought for, and said: thank you very much, I'll take my power to choose, and I choose family over career, because you've shown me the notion of having it all is bullocks.

I have more to say on the subject, but will have to come back to it later.

25 November 2009


Thank goodness for the Peanuts, or I wouldn't have much to write about these days! My creative energies are tied up in knots over an assignment that should be a piece of cake, but instead is going nowhere. So, little people to the rescue! This story was told to me over supper last night - I wasn't there to see it for myself, but I will do my best to tell it well.

The setting: Local YMCA pool, where Mama and Papa Nut bring Four and Five for swim lessons once a week.

The scene: Normally, Four is a water baby, and Five freaks out. Prior to the instructor entering the pool, the tadpoles-in-training have the opportunity to play, which Four was giving his whole-hearted best: splashing, kicking, blowing bubbles and the like. However, once Ms. Tadpole Trainer got in the water, he became stubborn, not wanting to put his face in the water, or kick his legs like that. Five, however, was the star pupil with goggles in place, following directions very well. So a Parent Nut said to him, "That's it Five! Good job! You show Four how to do it."

The punchline: And calm as can be, Four reached over - without looking - dunked big brother's head into the water!

22 November 2009


I don't have much time left to get this in before the clock ticks over a new day:

Happy Feast of Christ the King!

This is the last Sunday of the Church calendar. Next Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent, which means that Christmas is approaching. Time to prepare! While you begin to think of cleaning and cooking and shopping...don't neglect your heart, your mind, and your soul.

Huh. And wow.

Every once in a while, I come face to face with "the world out there". My reaction is usually either "huh" as in 'what do you know' or 'I didn't know that' or 'um...interesting'; or "wow" as in 'weird, man' or ... 'wow'.

Tonight, for instance, the Big Nuts and I decided to take in the annual spectacle that is The! American! Music! AWARDS! Back in the day - our day - we would have settled in for an evening of presentations, awkward speaches, and a few performances by Sting, the rock group du jour, the obligatory diva or pop princess, but it would have been fairly straightforward. Music was at the heart of it, and the genre lines were pretty clear cut - everyone knew which Billboard chart they were on.

This isn't our day anymore, (though I do know Green Day [ how sad is it that Green Day were the old timers on the show? ]) and that fact came clearly home to me, watching this show. I recognized most of the names, had heard some of the songs, but I watched most of the performances through my fingers, fairly scandalized at the proliferation of autotune and lip synching - not to mention the costumes, dance routines and general hoopla.

There was one performer - poor girl - that we had quite a giggle over. Let's call her Rihanna - anna - anna. Her number began with a video showing robot arms either removing bits of her clothing or embedding jewels on her chest (not sure just what was going on), then we transitioned to Live! On Stage! Rihanna - anna - anna spreadeagled on a windmill! Still managing to sing her trademark "hey, ey, ey". This is a talented young lady, let me tell you. I missed how, but she managed to get off the windmill, to reveal her costume of a white ribbon wrapped around her body, which seemed to become her boots. She clutched in her hand what was neither a mic stand or a walking/candy cane, but appeared to be a cross between the two. JB dubbed it the 'mic cane'. Toward the end of her number - and this was the highlight - laser beams came out of her shoulder pads! The Peanuts would have loved it! Luffed. It. Even better, Miss Rihanna-anna-anna once had a big hit with a song about her Umbrella ("under my um-brella, ella, ella" she sings). We figure we could overlay the music and lyrics about the umbrella over the video of tonight's performance, and they would faint in fits of happiness, for if there's one thing they want more than lasers coming out of their shoulders, it's an umbrella of their very own.

Huh. And wow.

A picture is worth a thousand words

The most exciting day of the week: garbage day! So much so, that the Potty gets dragged to the window to provide a front row seat.

The original Peanut - Five

From the top: A cake I just whipped up for our Feast Day feasting today; the bunny from our backyard neighbours in our leaf pile; the promise of big things to come in the hand of Four; Three, utterly giddy; One, Four, Three and Two, hamming it up.

20 November 2009


There are signs that w...w...wi...winter is approaching. That's right - even here in Slice of Heaven on Earth (SoHoE) there will be winter.

This morning the sky was on the far side of pewter; almost all the leaves are down, and there are fewer and fewer leaf bags left at curbside; colours are subdued in gardens, reduced almost only to berries of various shades, and a few fiery-hued bushes holding tenaciously to their last leaves; dog walkers are now in sweaters or light jackets, and sometimes even accessorized with hats and gloves.

Christmas trimmings (or should I say Holiday decorations?) are making their way into our neighbourhoods, but not too many homes are lit yet with strings of coloured lights. Wood smoke is a common aroma now, when out even in the late afternoon. I'm sure sales of cocoa and marshmallows have increased in the past week or so - inevitable at this time of year.

I love the crisp air at this time of year. I love crunching over leaves as I walk through the woods. I like the scurry of squirrels as they gather and hide their winter stores. I like having to wear a jacket when I'm out early or late, and delight in the warm afternoons. I look forward to skating - the bite of my blades cutting through the ice. I enjoy walking in the brisk air, then coming back to a steaming mug of something welcome-homeish.

I think w...w...wi..... will be fun here. I can't wait to see Five tumbling through the snow in his drunken sailor way. I want to build forts and snowmen with the Peanuts, and see the local landmarks dressed in their season's finest. It will be dazzling, I'm sure!


Number Two quizzing my knowledge of animated movies:
Do you know Sid the Sloth?
Well, his name is Sid, and he's a sloth.

Number Three, who at the supper table one evening, was teased by his daddy, about being five years old:
Dude! (sounding more like Dewwwd) Can't you see into my brain? Don't you know I'm six?

17 November 2009


A topic I enjoy ranting about is weird/boring/confusing/annoying/bad advertising concepts. For instance, I am annoyed at the room freshener candle people for "sexing up" their product by showing a man exhibiting amorous designs because his wife lit a scented candle. He smelled Fruits of the Forest and just couldn't help himself. How many housewives made the air freshener purchase based on their desire to give their Mister a nudge?

Another product that suffers in my esteem for the overly sensual approach is a pasta sauce company, who show a woman stirring the pot of tomato product, and a man comes up behind her, exhibiting amorous designs. She heats tomatoes and he can't help himself. Nice.

There are vague commercials that leave you wondering: "huh? I thought it was about toothpaste" when in fact they were desperate to sell home insurance.

My sister is right this minute sitting beside me reading a magazine as I work very hard at ignoring my next assignment. She's been pointing out funny articles, a really good deal on "bubble jackets" from Schmall Mart and a very scary advertisement for a wrinkle erasing treatment which was followed by a page and a half of small print disclaimers. Yikes!

A few pages later she came across an ad for skin cream, showing an attractive woman holding a nekked baby, and exclaimed: "Whatever they're selling, I'll take it!"

And that, right there, is all advertisers need to know: nothing induces sales as much as bare baby bottoms. Forget your high-priced celebrity endorsements - use baby bums, whether you're trying to sell yoghurt, golf tees or acne treatments. A little tushy is all it takes.

16 November 2009

Best plans laid low

You know how it is...we've all been there. There is an occasion, an event, an appointment, a scheduled task, a desired activity in your future, and in your mind you plot out a timetable, a route, a wardrobe. You decide that you will get a good night's sleep beforehand; you will get up early; go for a brisk walk to shake out the cobwebs, bring a sparkle to the eye and a sharpness to the mind; you will break your fast with a nutritious, perfectly balanced meal; you will bathe and coif your hair, and paint on an elegant face; you will reach into your closet and withdraw the perfectly appropriate outfit; you will leave with plenty of time to stop at the library to run off a few necessary photocopies before driving in a relaxed, confident manner to your destination; the occasion/event/appointment/task/activity will go off without a hitch, at which point you return home feeling very satisfied with yourself and your ability to manage your life and its incumbent responsibilities.

Only when does it ever happen the way we planned it? All the positive imaging techniques used by top athletes could not foresee what inevitably happens: Peanut Number Five, who has been more of a Pickle than a Peanut lately while he struggles with a cold, decides to cry most of the night away, causing everyone to oversleep the next morning - even through the early morning routine of the neighbour warming up his truck. Through a decided lack of oomph and energy, the walk is dismissed in preference for hiding under the covers for another hour, before emerging to read a novel over breakfast of cold pizza eaten out of the tupperware container - which is more of an accompaniment to the large cup of coffee being consumed in an attempt to jump start the brain. With a startled look at the kitchen clock, a quick shower is applied to shampoo the hair and shave the extremities, after which clothes are desperately dragged out of the closet, jewelry is dropped on the floor, and makeup is slap-dashed over the face. A quick look at an online mapping service shows that there is just enough time to reach the location provided there are no other cars on the road, so the idea of helpful, I-am-prepared-for-anything photocopies is abandoned in favour of actually showing up on time.

With hastely scribbled directions in sweaty hand, attired in an outfit not nearly emanating the confidence and ability desired, an entirely unfamiliar section of the city was braved. As the numbers of the car clock ticked closer and closer to deadline, the directions seemed more and more incomprehensible, the end point further and further away. The feeling of being in control (the small, ragged fragments that remained) fell away entirely, leaving a calm, empty feeling of abandonment. Whatever would be, would be. Nothing could be done to change it.

As it turned out, I arrived 10 minutes early - just long enough to recover from the drive without too much time to fret. The address wasn't too difficult to find, and the people I met were absolutely lovely. Even the drive home went well, though I took a different route and didn't follow a map.

Just goes to show, things work out ok, when I'm not in charge, and my own plans are usurped for Someone else's!

14 November 2009


I have five Peanuts. I used to call my nephews after the Chinese fashion of Number One Nephew and so on through the numbers to Five. Sometimes I just refer to them by number, but lately I've taken to calling them Peanut. Peanuts - the allergenic kind - are cute, nestled in their waffle-textured shells, wrapped in brittle brown papers. Peanuts - the Schultz kind - are also cute, and those are the Peanuts that inspired my Peanut appellations.

I love all the Peanuts (and the big nuts who hatched them). I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them as individual little people over the past year I've been living with them. The original Peanut, though, is Five. At first he was Piglet, but it didn't really stick for too long. I thought he looked like a peanut when he was swaddled into a tight little bundle for the night, but now he resembles Charlie Brown, the bald-headed kid who could never kick the football. (Which should never reflect badly on him, poor boy: it was all Lucy's fault)

Five has the physique of a Peanuts character: short little legs, slightly longer body, and a head so big and so round it's a wonder he stands upright. He can't touch the top of his head, which fact I've used against him sometimes, when I tease him by putting his hair in a ponytail, or putting a building block on his head. He is so blond --not just Dutch-boy-blond, but so blond that when I took him for a walk last week, I was blinded by his head glowing in the sun. Though his tufts of hair are long enough I can pull them back into a stubby tail, they are so fair that he often appears to be bald.

So, all the brothers became Peanuts as well, though they have sadly outgrown the Charlie Brown look themselves. Before we know it they will be full grown nuts. I hope it doesn't happen too quickly.

11 November 2009

We remember

Today is Remebrance Day. Veteran's Day. Armistace Day. Whatever you call it, however you refer to it, I hope you make a point today of thinking about it. This is a day for poppies, for bugels and bagpipes, for uniforms and medals, for wreaths and speaches. This is a day for old but brave soldiers, for young but broken warriors, for sad but proud families. This is a day for countries and nations, for peace and freedom, for promises and resolutions. This is a day to talk to your children about what happened before you were even born, the price that was paid by many brave someones many years ago, many miles away.
War is hard for Canadians to understand, because since 1970, there has not been anything resembling a battle on our soil. We have become accustomed to thinking of ourselves as a peace-loving nation, and we tell ourselves that we are globally respected internationally for being keepers of the peace.
What we all too easily forget, is that the reason we have peace within our borders, the reason we live with abundant freedom, the reason we have a proud military heritage, is because 95 years ago young Canadian men (and women) undertook the horrific and frightening task of restoring peace to Europe with no guarantee of victory or even of returning home again, to this country seemingly so far removed from 'the action'. It would have been too easy to pretend that what was happening to people an ocean away had nothing to do with us in the New World. Canada was barely a country yet -- they could have been forgiven for staying home to plant their crops or fill newspapers with their opinions on how Europe should deal with the situation.
Instead, we as a country are able to tell stories of Ypres and Passchendaele, The Somme and Vimy Ridge.
It is all too easy to glorify war. It is not romantic. It is brutal and inhumane and frightening, decimating families and communities and even entire cities. To this day, the scars of World War I and II are visible throughout Europe, and if you will listen, there are still men and women who want to tell you their story.
It is too important to be forgotten. Today we remember.

09 November 2009

Gamel (Revised)

An unfinished version of this story was posted a few days ago. I've taken that post down. Here in its place is the current draft. It's been revised, and hopefully improved.


Behind our house, a group of trees stood together in a wood. It was a magical place of oak and chestnut, pine and elm. It had a high, arched roof where the branches meet and linger overhead, while moss and grass softened the floor below. My brother and I spent most of our time there, when we were not being good students at school. There were trails and paths that wandered through every corner of our forest; we knew them all so well we could walk through blindfolded with our hands tied behind our back, always knowing exactly where we were.

We didn’t get along all that well, Robin and I, until I was six years old. That’s when Donny Edmonds and Rebecca Tucci tried to bully my lunch money out of me for a week straight. Robin found me in the pantry after school one day, inhaling a second sleeve of soda crackers – evidence of the first scattered on the counter and down the front of my sweater. When I told him about Donny and Becky, he got really quiet and still, which told me he was seriously angry. He’s pretty territorial, you see and while at the time he didn’t harbour great personal fondness for me, it was not ok with him that someone else treated me badly. Even at the age of eight, Robin was a force to be reckoned with; to this day I’m not sure just what he did to the gruesome twosome, but they sure never bothered anyone else for their lunch money.

Two years after the lunch money episode, we moved from town to the country house because Mother believed it was better for us kids to grow up where we could smell cows in the field, not garbage rotting on street corners. At first it was hard to leave our friends behind, not to mention cable tv, and convenience stores well-stocked with candy; but being so far away from everything and everyone meant Robin and I had to depend on each other for company, and we discovered we really did like each other.

There is nothing more wonderful to a child than the chance to explore and discover. Our new house had cupboards, pantries, hallways and stairs enough to provide us with endless afternoons of hide-and-seek and treasure hunts. We quickly learned which doors would creak when we tried to sneak outside instead of do our homework, and that if we were really quiet in the attic trunk room, Mom would forget to call us to help her weed the garden.

It was in that attic room we set up our clubhouse. Over time we brought in pillows and blankets, a reading lamp with a supply of books, and a tin of cookies – as well as a few apples to keep us healthy. We plotted our grand adventures there, recording them afterward in our log book, which was kept carefully hidden in the back of a secret drawer of an old dresser. Well, we called it a secret drawer, but it was really just a drawer with the handle broken off, so we used a knitting needle to open it. Robin found a wobbly old globe of the world which he added to his collection of treasures. He loved to spin it, randomly land his finger on a country, then read about it in the one volume encyclopaedia we took from Dad’s study. He would make up stories for me about each new place, involving secret agents, deep sea divers, chocolate merchants, or orphaned princesses. It was an excellent way to learn geography.

When the weather allowed, we spent all of our time outside, under the trees of our wood. We discovered a little stream that cut through the middle of it, which was always a good place to find frogs and tadpoles. We found the place where a family of rabbits had their warren-home, and we learned that in early spring, deer were less timid and would come quite close to us, if we were very quiet. Red squirrels and chipmunks were always chasing each other up and down the tree trunks, fighting over nuts and bulbs as if there wouldn’t be plenty to go around. Robin thought it was a matter of team pride: Chipmunks Versus Squirrels in nature’s contest to gather the biggest harvest.

My brother and I usually did everything together because an adventure, no matter how exciting was never as much fun when experienced alone. He had the wonderful ability for turning hunting for frogs into an African big game safari, and going for a hike into a polar expedition. Our clubhouse walls were decorated with pictures of lions we had captured, and rich pirate ships we had plundered. He could turn even boring chores like washing dishes into a mission – should we choose to accept it – to save the world in 15 minutes or less.

One autumn, a few years after moving to our country house I came down with a double dose of the mumps and was kept home from school. Robin faithfully brought my homework each evening, and told me stories of what had happened on the yard at recess time. But after completing the four times tables and then reading Super Fudge for the third time, I started to think I was the unluckiest girl in the world for having to stay home. Eventually, after I had complained once too often that I was bored, Mother decided it would do me good to get some fresh air and use up excess energy; and so for the first time, I went into the woods without him. Wouldn’t you know it? That’s when the for-real adventure happened.

It was a day like any other, unless you knew what to look for: the sun shone especially bright, even though summer was well behind us; I saw a crow and a frog sitting on our swinging tire; and Mother let me have two peanut butter cookies before I ate my lunch. I should have realized that something special was going to happen, but you never really do, at the time.

There was a tree I was particularly fond of, because the earth formed a soft bowl at the feet of it, cushioned with soft moss. This little spot was exactly the right size and shape for me to curl up with a good book in the afternoon, when the sun shone over my shoulder perfectly so I could read, without having to squinch up my eyes. I could spend hours there, when I got lost in a story, looking up occasionally when I heard scurrying in the grass beside me, or the wind was being especially bossy in the leaves. It wasn’t far from the stream, so on the hottest days, we’d keep our drinks chilling in the water. Cool orange fizzy pop on a hot afternoon was as good as the ice cream cones we used to get from the bicycle carts in the city.

That particular day, I’d settled in with my soft-at-the-corners copy of Ballet Shoes, imagining myself as Posy, arriving at my adopted home in a basket of ballerina’s slippers. Gradually, the corners of my mind became aware of a soft scratching sound that repeated itself over and over again. Looking up from my book, though I was still vaguely in England 70 years ago, I somehow wasn’t surprised to find a very short but very stout little man standing beside me. He was only so tall that the leaves on the ground came all the way to his knees, and while I was sitting, the very tip of his hat didn’t even reach my shoulder.

I should have been startled, or afraid, or at least confused, shouldn’t I? But my brother had such a way of making the most remarkable stories seem real, that in my imagination we had already encountered and become friends with many strange creatures. This little man was just one more, along with the fauns and unicorns, white bears and flightless birds Robin told me about.

To look at, he was very like any man you might see buying tobacco for his pipe: he was round through the middle, with plump little red cheeks beside his smiling mouth. He was dressed in what I was sure must be tweed, with sturdy little brown leather shoes on his feet, glistening with a gold buckle on each one. He stood with his hands clasped behind his back, and he rocked back and forth from heel to toe, looking up at me with his head tilted so far back, I thought his hat would fall off with the next rock.

He kept smiling at me, so I knew he meant to be friends. Then I realized he was talking to me as well, though it sounded like he was chirping in Gerbil-talk, at first. I shook my head at him, lifting my shoulders in a shrug to let him know I didn’t understand him.

“I’m sorry,” I said, slowly and very clearly in a way that would have made Mrs. Evans, my English teacher very proud, “but I only speak English. Ing-gul-ish.” I frowned a little, to let him know I too, was friendly, and that I was trying to comprehend. As I listened very hard to the sounds he was making, they gradually became words I recognized -- chatter about spectacles and butter, which didn’t make a great deal of sense at first, but gradually it became clear he was talking about having lost his eye glasses somewhere in the grass and leaves; had I seen them? And that he wanted to invite me in for tea with bread and butter, only he was fresh out of butter that morning.

Looking for wee little glasses when the ground is covered with fallen leaves is quite a challenge; but, fortunately, even wee little glasses sparkle in the sun, and eventually we found them tucked under a mushroom cap. With his glasses safe once more, my new friend settled in for a good chat. I sat with my back propped against the reading tree, and took great delight in just looking at him. As a girl used to her brother’s wild stories about dragons, magic fountain pens and a secret world behind the bedroom mirror, it seemed perfectly natural to be deep in the woods talking to a...dwarf? And yet, how exciting to discover that sometimes imagination had its root in truth, and it was sitting across from me, with its legs crossed, swinging its foot back and forth as it talked to me.

This imaginary truth introduced himself as Gamel. He told me that he lived next door to the reading tree, and that he had often seen Robin and I, as we explored or whiled away the hours with a book or sketchpad. He told me that there were others like him living in various trees throughout the woods, and that he would introduce us in due time but not yet, as they were rather shy of big people. Gamel explained that he had lived in our forest for a very long time, and had known other boys and girls before we moved here. Not all boys and girls were capable of seeing the little people, because, as he said, they had ‘old souls’. Likewise, some grownups were remarkably young at heart, and could see Gamel and his friends their whole life long.

He invited me into his home to have some tea, but the doorway was too small for me to wiggle through, so I just peered in through the opening to see that he had a simple wooden table with two chairs in front of a little stove. Two shelves hanging on the wall held his collection of cups and plates and tins and things, and I saw a few pictures hanging up as well, though they were too small for me to see what they were pictures of. I noticed a lantern on the table, and imagined how cosy the room would be when the world was dark after the sun went down. There was a doorway that led into another room, and perhaps even more beyond that. How I wished I could sit at the table with Gamel, and even more I wished that Robin was with me to see it all for himself!

Gamel brought out two mugs, with curling wisps of steam drifting away in the slight breeze of the afternoon. We sat down again, not saying very much, merely enjoying each other’s company as we sipped the warm tea. It only took a few sips before my mug was empty, but I didn’t want to leave him yet, so I sat quietly until he was also done. Then he set down his mug with a satisfied swipe of the back of his hand across his mouth, and took up talking again – this time about his friends. Oh! The stories he had! There was his best friend and closest neighbour Dagen, who in their younger years, had set off with Gamel from their home forest, to discover the world before they settled in our backyard. Dagen was a daring sort, often getting the two friends into scrapes and near-disasters, relying on Gamel’s ingenuity to rescue them. Hedwig was a motherly sort who had taken on the job of making sure everyone in her neighbourhood was fed and warm, and cared for. Cullen and Ailith were a brother and sister who had never been anywhere but our Homewood, and were looked upon as clan elders. Cullen was sought out whenever there was conflict in the community, and Ailith was known for being able to fix absolutely anything. Needless to say, their home was constantly full of visitors. Gamel himself was known for being a fine artist with the sewing needle, and when he proudly showed me the waistcoat he had on that day, I had to assure him it looked very professional to me.

Though I was reluctant to return home, the afternoon couldn’t last forever. I knew Mother would be watching for me; probably beginning to fret a little about me being gone for so long while still mumpish. So I had to say goodbye to Gamel, promising him that I would return again as soon as I could, and that I would bring Robin with me. I looked back at the last possible moment – I think I wanted to prove to myself that it had really happened -- the little man was blowing smoke rings from his pipe, rocking back and forth on his feet like the first time I’d seen him.

07 November 2009


We went for walkies today. I realize walkies is what you do with dogs, and I'm walking Peanuts, not doggies, but...well, when you walk with little ones, it seems appropriate. The Boston Marathon, it was not.

Usually, it's just Peanut Four and I, but today Three decided he would come as well. He's sadly out of condition though, because not 5 minutes from home, he was asking if we were going to go back to the house soon. And this is the 'nut I've been told again and again walked and walked and WALKED all week long through Disney.

Just a few doors down on our way out, the gentleman of the house was out collecting leaves. (This is a big pass time in these here parts). He said "hello" in the friendly way of folks 'round here, and the two boys said "hello" in return, 'cause their mama brought them up right. But when I was about to walk on, Four tugged at my hand to hold me in place, so he could tell the man that there were lots of woods around here. He had to say it a few times, cause Mr. Leaf Collector didn't realize we were embarking on a conversation, and then I had to translate for him, 'cause while Four really likes to talk to people, it still takes some practice to understand just what it is he's trying to say. Once the man acknowledged his comment, we were free to carry on.

Walkies with Peanuts: a beautiful way to spend a sunny afternoon.

04 November 2009


Eating a supper of pork, Peanuts Two and Three were discussing the difficulty of gristle.

Two was being encouraged to just leave it at the side of his plate without a lot of fuss and bother.

Three said he just didn't chew the bad stuff. He chewed the rest and then swallowed it all. "I have a big throat", he said, "so it's no problem for me"

Number One Peanut has recently taken up the habit of air quotes. Everyone has a different air quote style, of which his is an almost curt and masculine curling of the first two fingers of each hand in front of his shoulders. The first time I noticed it, he was telling us about a shape map he had to do in language arts, though he didn't know why it was called a *air quote* shape *air quote* map.

I *air quote* luff *air quote* it!

03 November 2009

Captain Christopher?

I'm working on an assignment for a course I'm taking. I am to write a story for children, between 500-3,000 words long. I've got two little pieces begun, and with both have boxed myself into a corner, and am unsure where to go with them now. So today, I sat down and wrote something else. I am posting the result below. One note: I'm calling the boy Christian right now, but he has been Christopher and Sebastian as well. Maybe he's a Timothy? What do you think?

I'd love to get some feedback. Can it be improved? Does it end ok? I want to submit the assignment in the next couple of days, so drop me a line if you have any thoughts. Thank you!

Christian and the cars

The sun woke up just minutes before Christian opened his eyes. He took a minute to stretch his arms up high over his head, and wiggle all of his toes as a way of saying “Hello!” to the new day. He yawned so hard, he couldn’t see the bunk bed above him, and little black stars swirled in front of his eyes.

With a little shiver of happiness, he remembered that today was a very special day. It was his birthday, and he’d been promised a very special treat – he was going to the big park; the one with the water wheel and the pirate ship, and the extra long slide that turned around two times before you landed with a bump in the sand.

He tucked his hand under the pillow, searching for his favourite car – the black and white police truck, with a yellow number 5 painted on the sides. The doors opened up, and if you dragged it backwards on the floor then let go, it would zoom away very fast all by itself.

Birthday breakfast meant waffles with blueberries – his very favourite – and chocolate milk. And right there, beside his plate, was a box covered with yellow paper and an orange bow. It had a card on top that said “To Christian: happy birthday, love Mummy and Daddy” but he couldn’t open it until he’d finished all of the blueberries on his plate.

And when he! It was a beautiful green dump truck, with big black wheels; and when he pushed the button, the back of the truck lifted up, so all the blocks or sand or rocks would tumble out, just like at a real construction site.

Being patient was very hard for a boy who had only just turned three, but eventually he was at the park, standing behind the wheel of the pirate ship: Captain Christian of the brave ship Ahoy, with its cargo of treasure and chocolate. Captain Christian had to be wily and cunning to outmanoeuvre the navy boats chasing him. He had to call his crew to battle stations, man the canons, and let the royal navy have it. Because he was a wily and cunning captain, Christian got his boat and his crew to safety, where they had a big party, eating almost all of the chocolate they had on board.

Happy that once again he had brought his ship and crew back home, Christian took a fast ride down the twisty slide, where he turned twice very fast before landing with a bump in the sand. He decided this might be the day he would be able to climb all the way to the top of the slide without sliding back down on his feet. Holding on to the sides as tight as he could, he tried walking up the ramp, curling his toes hard inside his shoes, pulling a little with his hands. But his shoes were too slippery, and his arms were not yet long enough for his hands to hold on strong, so he slipped back to the bottom after taking only five steps.

Because he was a big boy now, of three years old, he didn’t get upset at all. He thought maybe it was time to bring his shiny new dump truck into the sand box, where some other boys were playing with their cars. The way they looked at his toy, he knew they thought it was special, and that they would like the chance to play with it, too. But they didn’t know, like Christian did, that this truck was real.

As soon as Christian’s little fingers sat in the seat behind the steering wheel as if they were going to drive, the truck started to rumble with a deep engine sound, shaking the loose gravel of the sand box. The lights on the dashboard began to glow red and blue, telling Christian everything was working just right. With a loud ‘Honk’ of the horn, and a ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ of the backup warning system, he moved the truck into place to receive its load from the digger to deliver to the construction site.

Load after load he drove wherever it needed to go. Little sticks became giant logs when they were dropped into his truck. Pebbles turned into boulders when dropped from his fingers shaped like the bucket of a crane, landing with a big ‘thunk’ and shaking the truck. One of the other boys crashed his motorcycle just before their big race, so Christian lifted it on as cargo and delivered it safely to the garage for repairs. Everyone cheered, because now the race could go on.

Long before he was finished all the work he had to do, Mummy said it was time to go back home. The new truck had to stay outside because it was very dusty and dirty – just like Christian was, too. After bath time and supper, it was time for bed. Tucked in and cozy beneath his favourite fuzzy blanket, with the police truck under his pillow, Christian said goodnight to the sun, wiggled his toes, and closed his eyes, already dreaming about the adventures he would have tomorrow.

01 November 2009

The short of it

Here's my confession: I'm a short Dutch girl. Yes that's right: an SDG. Along with the fact that I'm not over the moon about eating fish-type food stuffs, being short makes me a genetic anomoly. The Dutch, you see, as well as being tall, are known for growing tulips, sailing the seas, and being eaters of fish. Some have been fine painters, too.

The area I now live (SOHOE, if you remember) has quite a Dutch population, and also a lot of Italians. (interesting picture, no? Tall, blonde, round-cheeked people, and short, dark, prominantly-nosed people). Being there is so much water around here, it's no surprise the Dutch came to this region. There are many tidy farms around about to attest to their presence. As for the Italian, well, I think the potential for wine explains it all, doesn't it?

This morning, I went to Church, dressed for the occasion in cute Mary Jane type shoes that have about an inch of heel on them. Maybe 1.5 at a stretch. Through the opening prayers, I had a funny niggeling feeling that something odd was going on, and it took me a while to figure out just what it was. And then it hit me: I was tall! In this congregation of mostly Italians, I was tall! With the shoes I was barely over 5'5'', and stood eye to eye with most of the men, and certainly towered over the petite mamas around me. I felt like Gulliver in Lilliput!

It all depends on your perspective, doesn't it?