The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

28 December 2015

On the edge of a storm

Waiting on the edge of a storm
The pause between breaths
Between one heartbeat and the next
Is filled with
Tension, exhilaration, anticipation
Preparation.

Will it linger? Will it announce itself with anger and ferocity?
Or will it pass over, a mere whisper of its promised might?

Wind blows dry leaves
They skitter across the pavement,
Sounding nervous and eager to be elsewhere
The world is hushed, braced,
Ready
As we wait
On the edge of a storm.

18 December 2015

The happiness of office supplies

'Office supplies' is too tepid, too utilitarian a phrase to describe what I have in mind. I mean all things stationery from pencils and erasers to paperclips and file folders, and all the paper in between.

One of the fun tasks I have at the public library is receiving and preparing the magazines. Through the course of my duties, I must, of course, flip through the lovely and glossy pages on decorating, recipes, travel, style, science... even cats. It's a most difficult job, but I have stepped up and do my best.

Last night, I came across an article about a woman who owns a store in The Big City devoted entirely to... get this... pencils!  For real! She loves pencils, and so opened a pencil shop. In the course of the (all too brief) article, there was mention of brands of pens, notebooks, and such like. I took careful note of these mentions, and did some happy wandering through the internet. I was fairly giddy once done, and have resolved to one day soon make a pilgrimage to that pencil shop. I may either burst or melt from delirium, but it would be worth it.  Lest you think I am being frivolous with my life, rest assured that my mother would understand, and in fact would like to join me.  Love of stationery must be genetic through the maternal line.

Here is where it began:
CW Pencil Enterprise

CWpencils.com

Not only pencils, but sharpeners (not your run-of-the-mill plastic sharpeners, either), lovely notebooks, erasers, artist caliber coloured pencils, and so on. The collection on offer is finely curated and clearly the work of a person who loves what they do.  Happiness!

The owner of the pencil shop, Caroline Weaver, mentioned in the article a luxury item she indulged in - a Smythson agenda.  Now, I have just recently spent a couple of weeks trying to find the just-right agenda for the year ahead. I'm juggling three jobs, appointments, scheduled obligations and need room for notes and scribbles so it must needs be the right size and configuration of boxes for the days and months. It must be portable, able to absorb added bits of paper I will tuck into it, be comfortable in the hand, and almost most of all, be pleasing to the eye.  Clearly I take my agenda seriously, so I was eager to see this Smythson agenda that impressed the pencil shop lady.

Smythson (of Bond Street)

Roksanda Fashion Agenda, Smythson

It's lovely. The description is lovely. It's bound in calfskin. It has two coloured ribbons, and "pale blue Featherweight paper".  I'm impressed. I like it.  I'd be tempted to ditch my carefully selected Tiffany-blue special edition Little Prince moleskin week-to-a-page agenda (purchased at deep discount during the insanity of Black Friday). But this Roksanda, dear Reader, costs $235.  And it's good for only one year! Next year I'd have to buy a whole new Roksanda! Plus, I'd have to buy a super fancy pencil with which to write my appointments, because an ordinary everyday HB would be an insult to the Roksanda. And the fancy pencil would need a super fancy $200 sharpener to give it due honour... the costs of a super cute agenda are spiraling out of control, and I realize the happiness of such a beautiful object is greatly outweighed by the fourth job I'd need to find in order to pay for owning it. Even so, I do understand the Pencil Lady's admiration for the beautiful object, and know that for the 365 days of 2016, she is going to love it.  Happiness.

The magazine spread featuring the pencil shop had a picture of fountain pens. Modern looking and pleasing fountain pens, with the brand name of Jinhao.  Doing a Google search for Jinhao led me to a website for The Goulet Pen Company.

gouletpens.com

Oh. My. Goodness.  Not just pens, but ink!  Beautifully tinted inks in bottles and in cartridges. Nibs. Repair kits.  And the paper products!  Gorgeous paper and envelopes and notebooks.  And... sealing wax.  Sealing wax!

Sealing wax from The Goulet Pen Co.

I've been wanting to have brown ink for a long while now.  Goulet has not just brown, but Ancient Copper, Chocolate Brown, Hazelnut, Caramel.  But then there is also Oxblood. And Garnet Red. And Copperorange. However am I to decide between them?  Of such decisions dreams are made.  Happiness.

If office supplies aren't your thing, what makes you happy?



17 December 2015

Dear, sweet Jane

Dear, sweet, chocolate covered Jane. (Movie quote; do you know whence it comes?)

Yesterday, December 16, was the 240 anniversary of the birth of Jane Austen.

It must be acknowledged far and wide among those who know me, that I am a great admirer of her words.

When I read her novels I marvel at how very easy she makes it look, this business of telling a story. Because her tales are not bursting with contorted plots (insert Russian author here), strewn with minute descriptions (Edith Wharton and her paragraphs about lace), or casts of odd and quirky characters (Dickens), it is easy to assume there is no craftsmanship involved in Austen's writing. I believe the opposite is true: the appearance of simplicity demands great skill.

Any builder will tell you that embellishments are easy. Moulding and trim hide flaws, while clean, spare lines must be precise and perfectly executed. At the same time, all the extras can be trying to convince the reader, "I am a brilliant piece of writing!" like when figure skaters circle the rink six times in preparation for a big jump; the audience knows to expect a fancy trick. When Kurt Browning suddenly leaps into the air, it is all the more breathtaking because we didn't see it coming.

The embellishments, the tricks, the descriptions and crazy plots are not to be overlooked because to do it well, great skill is required. I think of it thusly: 

This is Dickens











And this is Austen


Both are beautiful. Both are well crafted. They offer two different aesthetics and each required a different approach in construction. One of them is almost bullish in its presence, and its strength is clearly visible. The other is delicate, elegant, almost weightless, its strength less obvious.

Aside from admiring the mechanics of her writing, the Austen novels are entertaining. It's fun to look into the drawing rooms of Regency England, to observe the customs and manners of the time. They are simple stories of love and family and how good character wins over pride and foolishness.

Pride and Prejudice is an obvious choice for favourite Austen of all, because Lizzy Bennet is feisty and funny and clever, while Darcy is just brooding enough to capture a female heart. Then there is the wonderfully frilly and flighty dear Mama, Mrs Bennet, and the unctuous obsequiousness of Mr Collins.

P+P is where I started my Austen journey. I must have been about eleven years old so of course subtleties and context went over my head, but I was entranced by the world I discovered on the pages of that book and loved how Austen used words. I think my love of history came from seeing domestic life through Austen's pen.

Over time, I'm drawn more frequently to the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion. Anne is older, more subdued than other of Austen's heroines. She has experienced disappointment in love, as she was forbidden to marry Wentworth eight years previous because of his lack of wealth or position. Persuasion is about their meeting again, rectifying mistakes and misunderstandings, and discovering they now have the courage to face down opposition and choose for their own happiness. Anne is gentle yet strong; Wentworth is just brooding enough to be interesting, and as a written character has more depth and complexity than her other heroes (in my opinion).

For the words you left behind, dear, sweet Jane, I thank you.
Happy birthday!

16 December 2015

It's about survival, baby.

I was rolling along just fine. I thought I had a handle on how to run this library, and how to relate to these big children so that they and I survived the days together. I was looking forward to this last week with them, misty-eyed at the thought of a fond, gently-regretful parting.

I forgot about The Week Before Christmas.

The Week Before Christmas, as anyone who works with children big or little will tell you, is Crazy Time. Something latent in their blood wakes up, turning an ordinarily well-behaved young person into a gremlin. It's like they're already high on all the sugar they will consume over the next two weeks and the high is amplified by their giddiness at the thought of no school for Two Whole Weeks!

The game plan this week is to survive. I need to keep them alive, the library in one piece, and my sanity intact for three more days. Gone are the standards I've been working to put in place. Gone are my expectations and rules. I want to get to the end of each class with enough oomph to get through the next one. I want to not have to call Facilities staff to come and rebuild a wall. I would like to not have to pull the fire alarm, or perform CPR, or steam-clean the carpet. My goal for this week is simply this:

Survive.


14 December 2015

Law of Perversity, the sequel

A breakthrough of sorts!

The typical routine on a working day is to stumble into the kitchen to break my fast, then prepare for the day with ablutions and wardrobe.  Today I did the opposite. I dressed myself in an outfit that hit all the right notes: it looked nice, was professional, and I felt really good. Then I began assembling breakfast, deciding to have apple cider as I was out of juice.

Now, that might seem an innocuous decision, that apple cider choice.  But there are two important details to know:
1) sediment settles on the bottom of the apple cider jug, so it needs to be shaken before pouring
2) apparently the lid wasn't securely screwed back on the jug the last time I poured some


*sigh*

Apple cider went everywhere. It doused me in a stream of appleness from shoulders to toes. It ran in rivers into the burner pans of the stove. It collected in puddles on the floor. It dripped down the side of the fridge, and collected on the top ledge of the oven drawer.

My typical reaction would have been something along the line of, "Why does this always happen to me?" with a great deal of moaning and lamenting. Today though, I manged to say, "You've got to be kidding me!" with a laugh. Then with a quick wipe down of reachable surfaces, quickly de-cidered and changed clothes. I didn't give it another thought until I got home at the end of the day when I walked right out of my socks because they stuck to the floor.

I actually laughed! And went on with my day!

That is a breakthrough indeed.











10 December 2015

The Law of perversity

The Law of Newton states that if something is dropped, it will fall on your toe.
The Law of Murphy states that if you don't leave the house until a quarter past the last minute, you will need to stop for gas.

The Law of Perversity (I haven't been able to come up with a good actual name for it. I was leaning towards Simon, but that isn't quite right. Perhaps you will think of something.) states that if there is some challenge, some difficulty in your life - a task you dread each day, or a job you can barely drag yourself out of bed for each morning - you will begin to enjoy it, even anticipate it just as it's coming to an end.

Why? And does it happen only to me? Is being stubborn and contrary hard-wired into my DNA, or is there any hope that one of these days I will finally learn to be present in the moment

I'm really striving for abandonment (accepting God's will), and trusting that, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28)  I know that Paul, in this letter to the Romans, isn't telling me that life is going to be easy just because I love God, or that only good things will come my way. He also isn't saying that anyone who doesn't love God can expect only terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things to happen to them. I'm not sure that I do understand Paul's meaning here (so many aspects of faith are mysterious) but it is along the lines of: God gives only His best in every moment. We may not see how it is 'best' or understand how it 'works to the good' - maybe not for a very long time - but if we are patient and are looking for it, we can see how all the different pieces of our life fit together and every one of them made us stronger, smarter, more patient, prepared us for something, or brought us to where we are now and we - at last - see that it is very good, indeed.

Eventually, maybe, I'll be able to approach the 'Law of Perversity' moments in Paul's way right from the start. I tend to get on board a little further along the line, but I now have the wisdom to know that I will eventually reach the acceptance-with-grace stage eventually, even while I'm moaning my way through the early mornings at a job that makes me want to stay under the covers. I would watch the clock ever so slowly inch its way toward hometime, and all I could do at that point was prepare for the next day before crawling into bed in order to do it all again. I dreaded those times during the day when students would descend on the library, and the sound of the doors slamming open and crashing closed became louder and louder in my mind.  What a sad way to go through life!

Now, of course, with only six days left at this job, the children have transformed into interesting, (mostly) endearing, appealingly challenging, not-quite-sure-who-they-are-yet, slightly-bigger-than-they-used-to-be young people. They are approaching me in a great rush to help them with last minute assignments (I love the challenge of research!), and they have become individuals instead of the rampaging horde they used to be.  Now I am looking forward to seeing them in the morning (though I will not lie: I do not quite leap out of bed with joy at the new day), and I am able to reach out to them instead of cowering in fear of them.

Of course the change is all on their part, right?

I don't know yet where my next assignment will be. I will probably be back in an elementary school, and if I'm completely honest with you, I am going to miss these big children and all their wonderful challenges.

09 December 2015

Warm wishes

No talk of sadness today, no tears of sorrow. Instead, I will leave you in a puddle of warm goo as you shed tears worthy of a Hallmark Moment.
Canada's own coffee shop, the one named for the hockey guy, recently dispensed gifts and performed good deeds around the town where I work.

Enjoy the warm wishes.





08 December 2015

The Grace of tears and the Year of Mercy

Doesn't that sound beautiful?  "The grace of tears."

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, once described tears as glasses to see Jesus. I have found it to be true in my own life that when difficulties abound or I have a particular sadness in my life, I turn to God and look for evidence of His presence in my life.

Being someone who cries easily, and someone who has cried in awkward, public situations, I tend to think of tears as an embarrassment rather than a blessing.

Recently, Pope Francis spoke about the fact that the world has chosen war, not peace. Traditionally in Christmastide, we speak of  'peace on earth and goodwill to all men'. We can't help but feel warm and benevolent toward our fellows. We spend a great deal of time and money on gifts for a wide circle of people connected to us, and we feel sorrow for those who go without the festivities and largess many of us are immersed in at this time of year. We sing songs and wear beautiful clothes, we trim and decorate, we shop and bake.

Perhaps this year is no different from any other year, but it would seem, after Paris and San Bernardino, and the tangled mess that is the Middle East, that we have turned away from peace and goodwill.  As Pope Francis has said, the world has chosen war. I see evidence of this in my own life when I observe biting comments on social media, near-hysterical outrage at one thing or another, or witness neglect, cruelty, or rudeness as I go about my day.

"It would do us good to ask for the grace of tears for this world that does not recognize the path of peace. Let us ask for the conversion of hearts" - again from Pope Francis. The holy father prayed the upcoming Year of Mercy would bring with it "the grace that the world would discover again the ability to weep for its crimes, for those who make war."

Today marks the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, a moment of true grace for all Christians. Mercy is, "a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace [...] mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life." (Pope Francis. Bull of Indiction: Misericordia Vultus.)

Today I pray with Pope Francis, "Lord, grant us the grace to weep over our indifference, over the cruelty that is in the world and in ourselves."
Amen.

01 December 2015

The Cruelty of The Dark

We are inching ever nearer to the time when the days will begin to lengthen. I look forward to it with even the very smallest fibre of my being.

Meanwhile, it was so dark when I left the house this morning, it was like the sun hadn't been invented yet. I checked the clock again and again, expecting it would tell me I had woken an hour too soon, and could therefore go back to bed before facing the day and the attitudinal teenagers it would bring my way.

I was wrong; the clock was right. It was merely dark with an absence of light, not a disregard of timekeeping. Even now, with the blinds in the library widows all the way up, the faint light outside seems to be coming from the clouds rather than a sun.  (How fortunate I am to have windows in the library, and these are a full two stories high and a classroom wide.) (I've worked in school and public libraries without a single beam of natural light, so this is a blessing indeed.)

On days like this, there should be free coffee on offer for all to help us through the day, much like during heatwaves there are cooling stations for those at risk of heat-prostration.  Is there such thing as dark-prostration?  I've been at work for three hours at this point, and am fighting to keep my eyelids from sliding closed. I could really use a jolt of caffeine to counter the cruelty of the dark.

30 November 2015

Anne with an e

Today is Lucy Maud's birthday. The Lucy Maud in question is, of course, L.M Montgomery, she who wrote Anne of Green Gables.

I didn't read Anne on my own as a young girl. My fist experience of her was when I was in grade six or so, during a sleep over at a friend's house. Her mom read us a few chapters that night - an unusual occurrence that had never happened before, and was never repeated. My friend wasn't too impressed with the story, but I was entranced. Anne wedged herself into my imagination as vividly as though she had been my dearest friend in life. I lived on those few chapters until I was able to buy my own copy.

Shortly after, my family moved again, which for us typically meant a summer spent camping our way from old house to new. I read my way through Anne's life that summer, from orphaned waif to marriage and motherhood. The first book in the series, Green Gables, still brings with it the smell of late night camp fires, damp sleeping bags, and propane lanterns. No matter what fun was to be had on any given day, all it took was for me to open the book and I'd fall headlong back into the story of Anne, Green Gables, and Prince Edward Island.

I wanted so much to be as dreamy and imaginative as Anne. I wanted to find a Lover's Lane of my own, and drift down a river like the Lady of Shallot. I wanted a devoted friendship like that of Anne and Diana, and to be as fierce when a boy tormented me as she was when Gilbert pulled her hair.

There have been many, many wonderful books in my life, and many of those have been captivating. A good book lingers, leaving traces of itself behind so that you can point to it, and say, "That. That part of me came from that book."  Anne was one of the first for me, and certainly one of the greatest.

Heartfelt thanks to you, Lucy Maud.  Happy birthday.

27 November 2015

On being not tall and the chair

I am not a tall person, by which I mean to say that I am almost short. I may have already mentioned it here at The Lighthouse in which case I do most sincerely apologize for taking up your blog reading time with redundancies.

Being not tall is a deeply sensitive issue with me, because My People are Dutch. According to it-was-posted-on-line-so-it-must-be-true statistics, the Dutch are the tallest people. I'm not sure if that is a world record or a European record. When the Dutch Family visited for Christmas last year, their twelve-year old daughter was taller than me, with her mom and dad being so tall I had to stand on tip toe for my head to reach their shoulders.

There are many instances during the day when being almost short is an inconvenience. There are tall shelves everywhere, requiring the use of a step stool (or chair, but shhh... don't tell Health and Safety about that). There are awkwardly spaced stairs, unreachable hooks, and lost books on tippy-top shelves all over the library. Chairs are often uncomfortable, with too-deep seat pans and too-tall chair legs so that my own legs swing awkwardly, feet rarely flat on the ground.

Which brings me to the inspiration for this post: the Ridiculous Chair.  This is the chair at the circulation counter, which is high, so the chair must needs also be high. There is no handy step-stool, nor even a convenient bar upon which to hop and so launch oneself upward and into the seat. It has taken me three weeks to perfect my method: I stand with my back to the chair, hitch my left hip up, perch with corresponding cheek and proceed to wiggle from side to side while also pulling myself up, ungainly and awkward, by the arms of the chair. This maneuver works wonders on my professional image, I assure you.

Oddly, when I first arrived in this library, the spot under the desk where this chair lives had a shelf across it, so one would have to sit as though side-saddle, with legs and torso facing opposite directions, feet dangling uncomfortably many inches from the ground. I removed the shelf so I can sit straight-on, stacked several very large books atop one another so my feet have a resting place, and do my very best to have everything I need with me at the desk so I needn't slide down and climb up again too often.

When perched in the Ridiculous Chair I feel like the stern overseer character in a Dickensian novel. Rows and rows of clerks hunch over their desks while I glower at them over my half-glasses, and I remind them to be grateful for the crusts of bread they get for lunch. (In real life I am a slightly cranky librarian, negotiating world peace one teenager at a time.)

Such is the power of a chair for one who is not tall.



26 November 2015

Of socks - oh, the socks!

Reading socks!
Who knew there was such a thing as reading socks?  I certainly did not, but the moment I opened the email from Canada's Monster Book-n-Bath Store and saw the promotional ad showing super cute socks branded as "Reading Socks" I realized the world has been in very serious need of them.

Ok, perhaps that is an overstatement. I have been in very serious need of them. I like reading. I like socks. Especially soft and cozy socks to wear instead of slippers around the house.  To have socks just for reading, well, that's a brilliant notion. There are already specially designed socks for other activities: running, hiking, and those really short ones to wear with heels.

These, from the BnB Store have cute designs and are lined with faux sheerling. Doesn't that sound amazingly soft and cozy?

Just as I was about to impulsively click the "purchase this item you don't really need for far too much money even though it's on sale" button, I opened the product information box to discover these are high maintenance reading accessories. They must be hand washed in cold water and laid flat to dry! Can you imagine hand washing your socks? I hope you're laughing at the idea.

I haven't given up on the dream of reading socks, however. I plan to hit the dollar store for a pair of their $2.00 fuzzy socks, and keep them solely (ha ha) for the very special occasion of  a lazy afternoon with a good book and a pot of tea.

23 November 2015

Further adventures in the kitchen with Tess, in which mom always knows best.

I've reached my maximum stress threshold at work. One of the reasons is that I currently begin the workday at O'Dawn:thirty. Of course schedule math is never that simple because you have to keep borrowing backwards in order to eventually get to where you need to be. (If that made any kind of sense to you, you're just the sort of person I like.) What that means is I leave the house 35 minutes before that, set the alarm an hour before that, which  means I'm doing as much as I can the night before so that I can hit the snooze button at least once before absolutely having to tear around the house like a mad thing in order to leave on time.

One of the tasks I've been attempting to do ahead is preparing a big batch of something or other that I can quickly reheat and eat each day during the week. I try to do this on the weekend because I'm absolutely comatose when I get home Monday to Friday. You know the sort of thing: big pot of soup, huge batch of chili, a chunk of roasted something or other, and so on.  (In fact, if you have any suggestions, please do let me know, as I've reached the end of my big-batch-repertoire and would dearly love to not have to eat chili again.)

Yesterday was Cooking Day. My plan was to cook a vast number of sausages in the oven, and roast a big tray of vegetables at the same time. (I was going to do a big bowl of rice as well, but forgot to buy rice, so it will have to be quinoa or pasta.) (Don't you find this all so very interesting? Bear with me... we're getting - ever so creakingly slowly - to the point.) As a treat I also cooked up a package of bacon for the week's breakfasts.

Let your nostrils help you imagine what my kitchen smelled like at around 1:30 on Sunday afternoon.  Sausage and bacon cooking away, along with cauliflower, and onions, and other aromatic bits and pieces.  Nice, huh?  Tempting when you're at a brunch buffet, but not exactly House & Home worthy. My mom used to put on a pot of vinegar water to steam. It's meant to cut the odors, and it also turns out to be beneficial, health-wise.

I, however, had a brilliant idea. Why replace sausage-fog with vinegar-vapour? Why not go for what smells lovely in the first place?  So, in a pan with a little water I dropped a few cinnamon sticks, a few pods of star anise, and a handful of cloves, setting them to gently steam on the stove top. It smelled so good!

Then I walked away.

I spent an hour or so in the living room, reading a really good book about a shepherd from the Lake District in England. It's a fascinating read.

But then I noticed an acrid smell. Like something burning.  And burning thoroughly.

That's right, dear Reader. If you noticed I wrote, "in a pan with a little water..." and realized that 'little' was going to be an important detail, you were on to something.  I had allowed the pot to steam dry, causing the lovely, aromatic cinnamon, anise, and cloves to burn themselves right to the bottom of the pot.

Do you know the best way to remove burnt-on goop from the bottom of a pan?  A little baking soda and, you've got it.... vinegar.  Let it sit a bit, then add water, and gently heat.  I found myself steaming the house with vinegar and water after all.

Mom always knows best.

Sigh.

The reading challenge

I've just learned about 48hbc. It happens at MotherReaders' Blog. 

It's a wonderful thing, about reading as much as is possible within a 48 hour period (48hbc stands for Forty-eight Hour Book Challenge). According to the rules, the 48 hours must be in succession. Not, say, four weekend days of 12 hours each. Also, in order to qualify as a ‘winner’ (or having adequately participated) a minimum of six hours of reading are required. I would find that a challenge, many days, and I'm already the sort who would do nothing but read if I could! 

The idea, I believe, is to set yourself a goal, blog about it, and share the stats of what you read including summaries and reviews if desired. It’s almost a reading partner to NaNoWriMo, though over a more condensed time frame.

It would be fun to try it sometime, though when set a challenge, I either become more focused on 'winning' than enjoying the process, or becoming stubborn and refusing to do it altogether. Remember my Great Reading Project? I got stuck about halfway through, because whenever I perused the list for the next book to read, I'd pout and say, "But I don't want to read any of these books!" then happily devour any other book within reach. ('Tess' must be Latin for 'contrary'.)

In order to read for - at least - six hours over two days, what would you have to give up? Would there be no knitting, no eating, no sleeping? Or would you instead not be bingeing on House of Cards, or watching the weekend footie? Perhaps you'd have to not clean the bathroom or putter in the garage and the garden would have to fend for itself, not to mention the poor dog.  Reading is serious business, folks, calling for great sacrifice and unstinting dedication. 48hbc is not for the dabbler or the faint of heart.

21 November 2015

Christ the King



This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King!
We have reached the end of the liturgical year, the last Sunday before Advent.

The world is shaken by the actions of men too cruel and cowardly to fathom. Words are not sufficient to express the sorrow, the disbelief, the regret, that we have come to such a time and place. There is no easy explanation or remedy. All I can think to do is turn to God so that I don't succumb to fear or hatred.

Lord, I place you at the centre of my heart, my life. You are Christ the King, my King, my Redeemer. Transform my heart that I may be wholly Yours. Amen.



20 November 2015

The pens, oh the pens!

Lest you think, dear Reader, that I exaggerated the story I told about vast number of pens I find in the library every day (my family seems to think I embellish when I tell stories), I have photographic evidence.




This is a shoe-sized box filled to full with mostly pens (a few stray pencils) that sits on my desk in the back office. It is overflow only, the daily takings are kept out at the circulation desk.

Here's something funny: a student just came to the desk to ask about her pencil. A very ordinary plastic mechanical pencil you buy in packs of 10. I pulled a handful out of the drawer, and she was able to pick hers out of the bunch.  I sense in her a kindred spirit.

The corner with the animals

There is a back road to home that I love as it reminds me of the country lanes of Germany. It is narrow and winding, with gentle dips and rises. At one point it goes through a hollow, over a creek, into a wee forest and out into the orchards before rising back up a hill until, at the little tree with tea cups hanging in it, I turn onto the road my own house is on.

In the hollow, between the creek and the winding road, sits a simple farmhouse. It isn't a large property, but it has sheep grazing. I see them just as I cross over the bridge and they make me happy each time I see them. The simple farmhouse also has a collection of chickens, roosters, ducks, and gooses that huddle and peck where they please, whether grass or gravel. Caution is required when passing the driveway of this simple farmhouse as there are certain to be fowl rambling about close to the road.

Just yesterday, still smiling from seeing the sheep, I had to come to a complete stop, for there in front of me I saw 5 ducks and a goose crossing the road in this order: duck, duck, goose; duck, duck, duck. And if you don't know what happens next, you've left childhood too far behind.

19 November 2015

Of things left behind

As a title, I think “Left behind” is fabulous.  As a theology it makes me giggle just a little bit because when I was younger and foolisher I used to say that I should have a hard hat with me at all times, ‘cause what if I happened to be under a bridge when the rapture happened? Of course, with that sort of attitude, I’d be more likely to be left behind myself than taken up into heaven, so the point is moo, as Joey Tribbiani would say.

Anyway.  I am currently at work in a high school library. I have, for many more years than I care to admit to, been an elementary librarian.  Leaving aside my less than supportive opinion of contemporary education, elementary schools are a fun place to work. Lots of work and plenty of challenges of course, but being able to read to enraptured (haha!  See what I did there?)  little people is my idea of a terrific job. The days are filled with visiting classes, helping teachers figure out where to find the Robert Munsch books (hint: try “M” for “Munsch”), gathering books about recycling or the War of 1812 or monster trucks.

The high school library is an entirely different kettle of fish.  In fact, I would say it is so vastly different from elementary that we’re talking zebras instead of fish. Children do not come here with stars in their eyes to hear a wonderful story read by their favourite librarian in the world, ever. They come to hang out with their friends, talk loudly with their loud voices, watch Youtube, or eat while “studying”. They come in droves and herds. When I remind them they’re not to eat or shout, or lay prone on the sofa, they typically begin a defence with, “But I’m just…” There is very little reading or studying on their behalf, and very little librarianing on mine. For the first two weeks I found this quite daunting. What is a librarian to do if there is nothing to MARC code, no barcodes to apply, no readers to advise? Instead of Tess the Librarian, I am Tess the Library Cop.

Teenagers are interesting specimens of humanity. They are wonderfully passionate about the things they are passionate about. They are busy exploring who they are as people, and each has a different approach to becoming that person.  They are far too busy doing all of that to remember anything else, such as to not eat in the library, or to take their personal effects with them when they leave.

Which brings us to “Things Left Behind”.  Our school day is divided into four class periods and two lunch periods. At the end of each one, I do a round of the library to tuck in chairs, pick up wrappers from the “But I’m just gonna leave it in my bag, I won’t eat it” food, and gather together the items that have been forgotten, and put them in what I call The Left Behind Box.

Here is a sample of what I have found: lip gloss, lunch bags both depleted and stocked, water bottles, text books, binders, musical instruments. I kid you not… even now there sits, in the Left Behind Box, a flute. My question is this: how does a student who has math class each and every day not clue into the fact that he is lacking his math binder? Or the person who left behind her history text not think to check the library – the very last place she probably opened the book – when she realizes it’s been a week and she still doesn’t have it with her?

Teenagers seem to shed pens and pencils like so much dandelion fluff. I have a box set aside solely for writing implements I collect after each class. Somehow, by the end of the day the box is empty again, because I just as quickly give them out to other students who have forgotten to bring a pen or pencil with them.

I must have been the same as a teen myself, though I find it difficult to believe, being just German enough that efficiency and organization are creeds I hold most fervently to. Also, my love of stationery forbids me to use any old pen (not that I’m a snob about it. A pen need not be expensive, merely be of  good heft, the right colour, and not blot.)


My mind is another matter, however. That, I frequently leave behind.

18 November 2015

The wind. Oh, the wind!

Do you know of the Mistral? It is a strong, high wind in the south of France that blows as winter melts into spring. I learned years and years ago that the Mistral was a legitimate defense in French courts. "The Mistral made me do it, your honour!" Considering the winds can travel as much as 90 kms an hour, it is not surprising that the rule of law would recognize a person might go temporarily insane because of it. How very Gallic to shrug one's shoulders and say "Eet was ze weend."

Extreme weather is exciting. I'm not eager to see people be hurt, of course, nor for there to be extensive property damage. And yet, copious amounts of rain, apocalyptic snow falls, blustering winds -- they all get the blood going. Weather in general is a powerful setter of moods. A blue-sky, sunny day sends the spirits lifting to heaven; gentle rain encourages nesting; the first snowfall brings on nostalgia. Ramp up the weather of the day, and the mood intensifies in equal measure.

My little nook of Sohoe tends to be windy, and is windy year-round. I'm nestled on the shores of a Great Lake and in the crook of The Ridge. A person better versed in such things could explain in scientific terms why it  is this combination results in frequent and enthusiastic winds... I can only tell you it happens. Most days I welcome it, in all its moods, whether gently stirring the Sycamore branches and lazily toying with the layers of cloud overhead, or sweeping with gusto across the open water, fields and orchards.

Last week, however, we had three days of le Mistral-caliber wind and I felt sympathy for the first time for people who must live in the south of France. At first the fearsome wind is giddy-making and exciting. Then it gradually eases, without your noticing, into a hysteria-making madness. Too much!  It was too much! At one point the gusts were so strong, so insistent I barely was able to open my car door. I envisioned being trapped inside the car for days, and wished I was one of those forward-thinking people who equip their vehicles with protein-dense snacks and bottles of water. And blankets. Thank goodness I always have a book to hand, or they would have found me curled up in the back seat, expired from the lack of literature.  Fortunately, dear reader, lest you fear the worst happened (and I am writing from beyond this mortal coil) I managed to time my push against the door with a brief decline in wind velocity, and I quickly scurried to safety in the house.

The Mistral has passed us by. Sanity resumes. I am now quite content with gentle breezes.

10 November 2015

Of absence and excuses

How can it possibly be months since I last wrote a single word?
How can it be possible that I haven't written a word, and yet I continue to draw breath?

The Lighthouse has been sadly neglected.
Dear Reader, there are dust bunnies galloping under the furniture, and webby bits dangling from ceiling corners. Any view the windows may once have framed is now hazy from month's worth of dirt thrown at them by storms. I have been absent and neglectful.

There were good intentions aplenty to pick up The Great Unfinished Novel and plunge headlong into writerly depths with it once more. There were health distractions, and work distractions, all of which served to make me admire all those authors who mange to produce wonderful books and all the while life keeps them on their toes. That takes gumption, and I am sadly gump-less.

Is it that the days are darkening and the nights are lengthening that draws me to sit under the glow of the desk lamp at night? Or is it that soft fruits don't contain as much of the creative-impulse producing nutrients that root vegetables do, so that now when meals are soups and stews instead of berries and salads, the desire to write and crochet and colour has returned?

Whatever the cause, I am drawn back to the Lighthouse, and look forward to playing with words once more.

23 July 2015

July, twenty-third day

Writing every day, but sometimes only in snatched moments here and there (so it's either write, or post updates).  I'm learning about, and am fascinated by, the process - the alchemy - of writing a full-on manuscript/story/book.  It's both far harder and much easier than I thought.  That is because I used to get hung up on the details, the cosmetics, and the craftsmanship of what went onto the page so that I couldn't move forward until everything was just so.  With this project, I'm having fun, I'm enjoying it all, am freely exploring, and most of all, am just putting it down, knowing that this is only one draft of (probably) several. While writing entire sections, I have known that bit wasn't good and would either have to go or be transformed later.  But I am content to leave that for later.  Writing badly can still move the story forward or reveal details I didn't know about before.  Writing badly still gets the imagination flowing and keeps the pencil moving across the page. Sometimes a little jewel is left behind from writing badly, so I'm happy with every day a little writing happens, even when it's bad.


Day twenty-three: brief and bad but brave.

18 July 2015

July 18

I know.  I know!
It's been three days. I haven't written in three days.
There are reasons.  Excuses.  But still, it's been three days.


Today is a good day to get back to it, don't you think?

More later.
Hopefully.

13 July 2015

The thirteenth day

I haven't been reporting every day, but am happy to report that I am writing every day.  Still not huge amounts - between 200-600 words daily.  I'm trying to not get stuck on difficult bits or get bogged down when I write myself into a corner.  Instead, I jot down notes to myself at the end of the section and start fresh with a new scene or chapter.  It's working so far.

Last week was busy with work and such, but this week may turn out to have more windows of writerly opportunity.

I hope your writing is going well.

Day thirteen: on the page.

09 July 2015

July 8/9

Nothing written yesterday. Work, doctors, interviews.
Leetle beet written today, not enough to document.  Will try to get more on paper before sun down.
Plugging away!

Day 9 - limpingly

07 July 2015

July 6/7

Still writing!  600 pages yesterday, more today.

I realize my strength (or at least my area of greatest comfort) lies in description, rather than dialogue. Dialogue slows me down and feels stilted.

We could be in for a big thunderstorm tonight, so I might be writing by candlelight.  What fun!  So I'm posting this update now, just in case.

Day seven: atmospheric

05 July 2015

July five

Today is a very special day, as it is Number Three Nephew's 12th birthday.  Twelfth!  How on toast did that happen? I must not have been paying attention because I'm pretty sure he was only five yesterday.  I bought him a decorative box from the dollar store (one a boy wouldn't feel awkward with) and filled it with about seven different kinds of candy from the Bulk Barn.  He is one happy camper.

It has also been a three-h-day - hazy, hot, and humid.  Coming down off the escarpment on the way home, I couldn't tell there was a lake out there at all, the sky was so very hazy.

So, it's been a full day.  I've just now managed to write a little, advancing the next chapter forward a smidge.  Perhaps 250 words.  While writing this evening, I was able to clarify some details in my mind about where Gamel came from and why he is where he is when we first meet him. It is very interesting - and exciting - to me to see this process unfold.

Day five: check.

The Fourth

Happy Independence Day to my friends south of 49!
Let the fireworks shatter against the sky etc.


I read advice to writers years ago that is proving to be sound. It went something along these lines: do not consume someone else's words when you are trying to write your own.  The point was to take care what you consume mentally, for it will impact what you produce. And also that filling up on someone else's words before you let your own free could very well prevent yours from getting out.

I wish I'd remembered that before I decided to watch a movie tonight after getting home from work instead of sitting down with Gamel.  When I did put pencil to paper, it was very hard going. I have an idea what this chapter is going to accomplish, and I've got a clearer grasp of the tone of the narration every time I work at it... but tonight the movie got in the way, cluttering up my access to where Gamel is in my imagination.

Still, the next chapter has been begun with roughly 200 words. A very small amount, but I count it a victory, as it is the fourth day in a row of moving forward.

Day four: victorious.

03 July 2015

July Day Three

As I write this, the sun is hovering just above the horizon in a burst of orange and hot yellow. Birds are madly chattering at each other in a way that makes me wonder if they just chirp to hear themselves chirp, or if they understand each other, from one sort of bird to another. I can also hear the voices of people in the orchard behind my house picking cherries. Not what they're saying, just the sound of their presence out there.

It's been a busy day.  A mighty quick day. I can't believe we're at its end already.  Front-line public library duty is exhausting work - be kind to your librarian the next time you visit!  I'm back again tomorrow, and thinking that I may not survive it.  There is an algorithm I haven't worked out that translates time based on an introvert doing extroverted activities.  It must be something like: four hours of friendly outgoingness for an introvert = 7.5 hours of regular work to an extrovert.

I did manage to write just shy of 300 words yesterday. That's not a vast amount by any means, but I made an exciting discovery.  Gamel started not in England as I'd imagined, but in Germany, and this became clear because the brown corduroy and tweed-wearing antique shop owner is named Mr. Hummels, and not Mr. Hobbs.

Obviously.

More written today.

And so one chapter, at last, is written.

Day three: complete.

02 July 2015

July Day Two

Personal details approaching:
Roughly a decade ago, a mole mysteriously appeared on my right shin, almost spot-on the middle.  Then about two years ago, one showed up in the exact same spot on the other leg (the left one). Maybe two weeks ago, the first mole became swollen and sore - in fact the whole shin bone is achy.  You know what I'm thinking, don't you?  That Dreaded Word.  It's probably just infected from a razor nick or something equally benign, but my way of handling things is to internally freak out about it, and externally do nothing about it.  I don't have a family doctor (a side effect of moving frequently) and this isn't something I fancy going to a walk-in clinic with.  I had almost convinced myself it would just go away (don't all unpleasant things go away if you ignore them long enough?) but when my sister saw it yesterday she told me to see a doctor without passing go and collecting $200.  This involves registering with a "we'll help you find a doctor who is accepting new patients within an overnight drive of where you live" service that will then connect me with a "I'm a helpful nurse who will take the information you gave over the phone to the other people and possibly maybe do something with it" person and that might result in me being able to contact a health care provider for an appointment sometime in the next month or so.  Hopefully the leg will not either fall off or swell to drastic proportions before then.

All this to say that I had personal business to attend to this morning before I headed out to work from noon to dusk.  Now that I'm home I've had just enough oomph to eat a bowl of ice cream with mango and bacon (I know!) and will now crawl into bed with the Gamel notebook to - hopefully - write the rest of the chapter begun yesterday.

Day Two: a forecast of done.

01 July 2015

Be ye maple-leafy

Happy Canada Day, bloggish friends.

I spent the day - happily - with the Peanuts. I remember the Days of Yore when I would head to the Big Downtown and party it up with half a million strangers, culminating in a walk of days back to the car and a sleepy drive home smothered in yawns and residual feelings of giddiness.  Now, in my advanced years, a day spent with five chattering boys and the cutest little girl-peanut in the world was exactly what I wanted to do.

One of the wonderful things about coming home after filling up on Nut-ness is the drive. There is a long straight approach over and down the escarpment to the lake and it's that view that - every single time - has me offering up a thank you to the Lord that I get to live in this place.  Tonight that drive was lit by the biggest, pinkest sun I've seen in a long time.  It was a stunning sight.

Today wasn't entirely about getting my ears talked off, however.  I did manage to spend some time with Gamel.  Well, another character in the story of Gamel, actually.  A very rough count has it at about 700 words.

Day one:  done.

30 June 2015

June - accountability

Posts written: 3 (shocking)
Writing elsewhere: 4
Books read: 3 (I think.  I forgot to keep track)
Kitchen fires: 1
Jobs ended: 2
Jobs applied for: 3
Jobs not selected for: 1 (so far)

It's been a busy month of school closings and such.  Today I'm busily scrambling to get my ducks in order (eggs in a row?  What is the expression I'm looking for?) because tomorrow begins a month of Gamel-ing.  I've got 15 chapters planned, and hope to get all 15 at least roughly written by the end of July. I was going to officially join a Camp NaNoWriMo cabin and go for the whole experience, but I know myself enough to know I'd get caught up in the record keeping and all the extras going on that the actual writing would be overshadowed.  So instead, I will post regular updates here - for accountability purposes, but also, hopefully, for feedback.

Here's the seed for the story I'll be working on: Gamel.

23 June 2015

Of heads bursting and camping

I may have shared this already. I've just come across it again in a shockingly unorganized bundle of notes written on random scraps of paper and schtuffed in a notebook.
The book it came from is, "Letter to a future lover: marginalia, irrata, secrets, inscriptions & other ephemera found in libraries." by Ander Monson.

The quote is this:
"Who burst your head wide open with a sentence? Whose linguistic tics have you ingested?"

Don't you love that?  I do.  I love both questions. I love that a gifted writer has the ability to burst open the head of a reader.  I've had that happen. The sentence starts soft and malleable in my mind, then expands as I examine it from all sides and delight in its construction, its sounds, the imagery, the feeling of it.

Years and years ago I read "Away" by Jane Urquhart. I don't remember all that much about the plot, but I remember pausing to savour phrases and being in awe that someone could put words together in just that way.

Years after that I discovered Adriana Trigiani who, while writing more lighthearted novels than Urquhart, has the wonderful gift of painting a scene, infusing the story with humour, and portraying complex characters.  She delights in, and plays with words - a talent I enjoy in writers.

A few years ago I read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows. The book as a whole moved me, not for specific phrasing but for the way plot, character, and emotion were conveyed entirely through letters written between the characters. The skill required to create fully realized characters and ensure the reader is fully invested in the story using such a format is prodigious.  That blows my head open.

More recently there has been Marisa de los Santos and her book, "The Precious one". Her turns of phrase would leave me giddy... I truly became drunk on her words.



And so, thinking of my own writing, I discover I have a kernel of determination to begin serious work on my own story.  I've played with several ideas over the past year and more, but while they intrigued me, are not true to me so I was utterly defeated by them.  I have instead surrendered to the snippet I began quite a long time ago, called Gamel, about a little man who lives in the woods.  I have been working on ideas to develop it further, and am also trying to work ahead on the other writerly obligations I have to complete so I can take all of July off in order to spend time with Gamel.  I'm going to try Camp NaNoWriMo, and see if that helps or hinders the process.

I'll try to post updates periodically through the month.  Wish me luck!

15 June 2015

Where silence reigns

There is a frequently chattering voice in my head. It is a voice of lists and fears and worries. It speaks of insecurity and falling short, and tempts me to want what I do not need – or even truly want. A dull background murmur of daily life floats on the surface of my consciousness, distracting me from quiet and contemplation and peace.

But deep in my heart, the part of me bearing the fingerprint of God from when He thought of me and called me into being – that is where my silence reigns.

It is the silence of deep water; not empty but full of life and so vast as to be incomprehensible. It is the substance of that which tethers me to God. Within that silence I know who I am and where I belong; I am sustained.

 

 

03 June 2015

Accountability: May

Month in review.

Posts at the Lighthouse: 6
Elsewhere: 4
Days of completing 10 minute challenge (writing for 10 minutes without stopping): 3

Books read: 9
New authors tried and loved instantly: 1


Not bad. Not brilliant, but not bad.

19 May 2015

FSF: Steam

Five Sentence Fiction from Lillie McFerrin Writes.
This week the prompt word is: Steam.









Her heart was in her throat. She could feel it pulsing in her fingertips. Would he remember her? Would she recognize him? And then all the noise of sad departures and happy homecomings receded because through the clouds of steam there he was - smiling as wide as the world to see her.

16 May 2015

Of hose and belts

It happened lo these many years ago that I was driving along Canada's big highway between the Capital and the Centre of the Universe. It was that time of year when daylight fades early and it was that sort of place where if one were disposed to be freaked out by isolated wilderness, one would freak out - if one weren't beetling along at high speed.  Not illegally, of course - only as speedily as one is allowed by the Highway Traffic Act.

What happened was this: as the sun was losing the will to hang in the sky, my car lost the will to maintain speed.  Before I knew it, I was sitting, still, on the side of the highway, buffeted by trucks and vans and cars beetling to their destinations. I felt like a dinghy tied to a pier, rocking gently from side to side in the wake of faster and fleeter machines. Their effortless motion made my motionlessness all the more palpable.

I will now skip over the part of the story where I promised myself that just as soon as I got home I was going to finally buy one of those cell phones people were saying were so handy to have in cases of emergency, and the part where the tow-truck driver who hauled my car and I to That Tire Store told me hunting stories. Perhaps I should have been flattered by his invitation to hang out with his buddies, but I began to feel the Steven-King-like atmosphere of my surroundings so I tried to decline in a way that made it clear I hoped he wasn't going to turn out to be a lunatic on the loose and really just wanted to get home safe and sound.

Anyway. Safe and sound I was, eventually. It turned out to be the timing belt and assorted other pieces. My brother-in-law had checked fluid levels for me before I left, but hadn't thought about belts and hoses.  (Who would, really, unless one were planning one's wardrobe?)  When his father heard my tale of woe, he shook his head sadly at me and said too bad it was that I hadn't had a pair of nylons with me, 'cause then I could have made the necessary repairs myself and avoided the scary tow situation.

The most surprising element of this story is not that he thought I would know how to MacGyver my car with pantyhose, but that I would own a pair of pantyhose in the first place!

~*~

Much to my delight I was able to relive the timing belt experience nearly two weeks ago, except this time it was here in Sohoe instead of in the wilds of the Shield, and with a red car instead of a black one. It took a week for repairs to be made. I was housebound and unable to get to work most days, but received such generous help from friends and family that I couldn't but see it as a blessing.  The car and I were happily reunited a few days ago and life has returned to normal with an added dash of gratitude.

And I still don't own any hose.


10 May 2015

FSF: Family

From Lillie McFerrin Writes comes Five Sentence Fiction, in which we tell a story in five sentences, inspired by a prompt word.



This week the prompt is:  Family.




Cutlery jumped on the table and water heaved in goblets as fists thundered down on the wooden surface in counterpoint to voices raised in accusation on one side and protestation on the other. Beth giggled at the thought that any moment the argument would become "It was a horse!" "A mule!" but no one paused to ask what was so funny.
Just as dad barked out, "And that's final!" to make his position clear, young Bobby let loose a burp that echoed in the sudden silence around the table (he had been sneaking root beer all afternoon).
Surprised laughter cleared the air as effectively as a summer storm. Mother rolled her eyes and passed the green beans.

05 May 2015

Five Sentence Fiction: Memories


From Lillie McFerrin Writes comes this challenge: to write a story in five sentences, inspired by the word 'memories'.


Beth took a breath to steel her resolve, then ran toward the waves pushing against the beach. She lifted her arm high, and with all her might threw the bottle into the sea. She stood for a moment to watch the bottle be drawn further and further away from shore. It wasn't long before she could no longer see the scraps of photographs inside. "Goodbye" she whispered, then turned her back on the water.

01 May 2015

Accountability: April, a month in review.

It's enlightening to look back over a month, a period of time near enough for accuracy but removed enough for detachment - and hopefully honesty. April has been a month of challenges. We've gone from the harsh depths of winter to the breaking free of spring. The work situation has become interesting, matters of the heart have been surprising, and the future feels like a vast and beautiful landscape before me, only I'm standing on a bluff, and from where I am I can't see the path to get from here to there.

Anyway, here are the numbers:

Books read: 4
Writing here: 6
Writing elsewhere: 2
Plotting or actual writing of story: 0





Fish Meal Summer

Years ago, back in the Age of the Nuts, my sister and I got quite enthusiastic about gardening. By which I mean we drilled holes in the bottom of a big Rubber Maid container and buried five potatoes that had sprouted in the back of the kitchen pantry. We also bought two tomato plants in pots, and tried our hand at little lettuce seeds in a bowl. For fun we had a geranium or two. There are always geraniums. (For us, this was taking gardening to the level of, say, the Chelsea Flower Show.) (I told you – we were garden mad.)

The point of this little story is not that we reveled in a bountiful harvest that summer, but that suddenly everywhere we turned, we were inundated with gardening advice. Every magazine had helpful lists of 10 easy ways to turn your thumbs green. Every novel featured a gardening diva or tree surgeon. Miss Anne, our next door neighbour, could be found trimming our shrubbery at all hours of the day, and would helpfully suggest ways we could improve our landscaping.

For some reason fish meal was a common theme. Even the novel with the gardening diva mentioned fish meal. And because we’re experiencing a surge of organic everything, the ideal source of fish meal is fish bones, from actual fish you’ve cooked and eaten yourself. Preferably ethically-sourced fish, at that.  Fish meal is particularly beneficial to the growing of robust roses. 

I can’t think how many articles I came across that summer that extolled the virtue of fish meal for roses. I began to fret about this, worrying that as I don’t particularly enjoy eating fish I’d have to endure a few miserable meals for the benefit of the roses. Sigh.  Then I’d have to research exactly how to prepare the bones, and the application methods. It became a regular topic of conversation between my sister and me.  Should we try it? What kind of fish?  Would it be ok if we cheated and bought fish meal from a garden centre? Would Miss Anne be able to tell?

This continued a pattern of long standing: we’d learn about something new, or hear about something another person did, and we’d feel some expectation that we should be able to do it, too. Anything from brushing your hair a hundred strokes a day, to baking bread with flour from wheat you grew yourself, to oil sketching your own family portrait. No pressure!

The summer of the fish meal brought an end to that.  One day my sister and I looked at each other and said, “But we don’t even have roses!”  Were we about to plant roses, just so we could eat yucky fish, then grind up the bones for fertilizer? No!  So “But I don’t even have roses!” has become a shield against feeling the need to take on the latest trend or do something I’m not the least interested in just because someone else can or does.

Every now and then that feeling wiggles its way in, though.  One such occasion was last night at work, when I came across this book:  “365 guitars, amps and effects you must play.”


But I don’t even have roses!

28 April 2015

Departure : Five Sentence Fiction

Five sentence fiction from Lillie McFerrin Writes - a story told in five sentences.
This week's prompt word is Departure.



Two little feet inched over the side of the bed, tip-toed across to the door, and snuck down the hallway to the top of the stairs. Two little hands gripped the banister as one little nose poked over the top. Two little eyes, spying no one, gleamed with mischief. One small body stepped from tread to tread, cleverly avoiding the creaky places in the middle.  The sounds of dishes being washed in the kitchen sink didn't falter as the front door silently snicked closed behind one little boy not taking his nap.

25 April 2015

Be ye lionhearted

I don't often post here pieces I've written for other sites.  Today's an exception.


April 25 is the Feast of St. Mark. He is known as St. Mark the Evangelist, and St. Mark the Lionhearted.  Isn’t ‘Lionhearted’ a wonderful name to have? It paints pictures of brave deeds and acts of courage, of nobility and fortitude. In the case of St. Mark the name is well earned. He preached and taught the gospel, winning many converts to Christ. He founded a Christian community in Alexandria, which grew into a large and thriving church, which roused the displeasure of non-believers who determined to stop him. He was captured, bound, dragged through the streets, imprisoned, and again dragged through the streets until he died. Accounts say the ground was stained with his blood and strewn with pieces of his flesh, but he continued to praise and thank God.  Lionhearted indeed.

 The Church continued to flourish in Alexandria and other cities St. Mark had visited. No doubt his teaching and exhortation were significant factors (along with the work of many other disciples busy spreading the Good News) but there was probably something else at work as well.

In June of 2014, Pope Francis said this: “The Church grows thanks to the blood of martyrs. This is the beauty of martyrdom. It begins with witness, day after day, and it can end like Jesus the first martyr, the first witness, the faithful witness, with blood.”

There are times when, as Pope Francis said, “historical situations require a strong witness.” He has spoken several times of the seeds planted by those who work for the gospel and die for the faith.  In the early Church, when new Christians were being persecuted in horribly creative ways, the fact that believers were willing to die for Christ was a profound, undeniable testament to the truth of the good news.

 Are we living in a time when “historical situations require a strong witness”? It would seem so. There are appalling stories coming from faraway places of beheadings, burnings, drownings, and mass shootings of Christians of many different confessions. Our brothers and sisters are paying with their lives for professing Jesus Christ as the Son of God. They are Lionhearted.
 
“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil.”  This from Pope Francis a few days ago after the news broke that yet another group of Christians was killed.  The part of that sentence that caught my attention was the Holy Father’s use of ‘still’.  These martyrdoms cry out to be heard by those who can still distinguish between good and evil, which suggests that there are those who are no longer able to do so.  Good and evil are one and the same to them, which emphasizes the great need in the world for more – many more – seeds to be planted.  It may take many, many more martyrs to shed their blood, and it will also take us offering our own sacrifices, professing our faith in our own daily lives (which can be a martyrdom in some circumstances) but we can trust that Christ spoke the truth when He said there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and that the Kingdom of God will triumph.

St. Mark the Lionhearted, pray for us.

23 April 2015

Of near death experiences and dotted lines

I almost died yesterday.

Well... that's not precisely true but it's a much better beginning to a story than, "I went for a walk yesterday" which is the precise truth. The part where I almost died was in my imagination.

The weather was glorious, with bluesome skies, shiny sun, and the merest hint of chill in the air. Irresistible, wouldn't you say?  So I took myself off to a local woody spot with marked trails (by marked trails I mean that occasionally a tree would have an arrow pointing vaguely leftish-but-maybe-it's-really-straight-aheadish). There was a 'map' that, with dotted lines showed the various trails.  This 'map' was as accurate as a subway map is in representing actual direction and scale. (This detail will be important very soon.) One of the little dotted loops suggested a gentle, bucolic stroll that would have me back at my car in plenty of time for an afternoon appointment, so that was the path I took.

Really, they need to make important signs much bigger, such as the one that said people should stay away - for their own safety and well-being - in wet conditions.  We've had rain lately, plus, under the trees snow and ice is still melting - both of which qualify for wet conditions. (This detail will also be important soon.)

Within a very few steps, I was ever so glad to have been clever enough to wear boots.  And roll my pants up. High. At first it was quite fun, squishing along in ankle-deep mud while around me birds chirped and beams of warm sun drifted down through the trees. And then the trail began to descend, and the squishing turned into sliding. As I moved deeper under the trees, snow patches expanded into, well, snow and ice with intermittent mud leading me further down hill. Now and then I could step off the trail and walk on last Fall's leaves, but for the most part there was nothing but steep slope to one side, scary drop to the other, and treacherous snow and ice underfoot. I'd slip and slide my way forward clinging to fragile branches whenever I could and madly flapping my arms for balance when I couldn't. By this point I realized I'd probably gone too far forward to go back but I couldn't be sure because the 'map' hadn't shown this trail sweeping so far right, so I couldn't be sure how much trail still lay ahead. Or how much of it was going ever further downhill. Or if the uphill bits would be as life-threatening. This was when I began to think I might die there, spattered in mud to my knees, fingers stained green from clutching branches, sprawled on a patch of ice with a message scrawled in the snow beside my body: Dear Parks People: important signs must be bigger. And maps should tell the truth!  ~ Tess.  (I'd sign my name so they could identify my body.)

Onward I slipped and careened, to find myself, unexpectedly at a road.  Huh.  There hadn't been a road on the trail map, so where on earth was I now? Had I wondered onto a different map and was now following someone else's dotted lines?  If only there were helpful trail markings, or even, you know, a map or sign with words saying, "Scary Trail continues this way" with an arrow.

I figured there'd been enough of travelling right, so took the unexpected road to the left, which, while ascending sharply uphill, was wonderfully free of either mud or ice and snow.  Hoorah! And sure enough, after huffing and puffing my way upwards and leftwards, there in the distance was my car. I've never been so happy to find myself in a gravel parking lot.  I made it! I survived the Scary Trail; escaped near death; defied vague and unhelpful signage; overcame deceiving maps with deceptively friendly dotted loops. If I was a marine, I would have yelled huah! in that moment.

And I was on time for my appointment.

20 April 2015

Underwater

Today I am working underwater.

Well, good thing that's not precisely true, as I don't have gills, but it makes for a good beginning, don't you think?

My work location today is in what used to be a school gymnasium. They installed wall-to-wall carpeting (in a very forgiving though not very pretty grey and brown pattern), chose some fun colours for the walls, and brought in a few pieces of office furniture. Despite the cosmetic sleight-of-hand, there is no disguising this cavernous space was once filled with the sound of bouncing basketballs and the ripe odour of physical activity. Every sound - including the tapping of my keys - expands outward and bounces off the far-away walls.

I sit along one short wall while my colleagues are arranged against the long wall to my left. I can hear the scissors snipping at the desk half a soccer pitch away as if they were in my own hand. Imagine if you will, then, what it is like in this room when a group of 50 large, enthusiastic, talkative IT guys (with a very few women sprinkled in) gather here for a celebratory lunch and awards presentation. It got loud.  Very loud.

So I put my bright green earbuds in (the ones with the pretty orange flowers) and went through my Rockin' playlist which not only allowed me to win my very own lip sync challenge, but also muffled the voices around me. I could see hands gesturing energetically, and mouths moving with gusto, but to me it was as if I was hearing it all from underwater, which was very calming and peaceful.

Tomorrow I work at the school library. I wonder if anyone will notice my underwater trick when the kindergarten class comes for a visit?

Isolated : Five sentence fiction

I missed this one, so was not in time to link up with Lillie McFerrin Writes and the Five Sentence Fiction challenge.
Here is my response all the same:



We stand behind her, one at each shoulder like a guard at her back. She faces a door - clear glass to view the world, yet closed, unbreachable and impassable. We sense the yearning in her; she is longing, straining to open the door and enter the world, but is frozen. Isolated.

10 April 2015

Accountability hurts

Not a great report for the month of March.

Books read - 9
Writing here - yikes!
Writing elsewhere - 2
Plotting WIP - not much, but some.
Family birthdays - 2

The fasting of Lent and the feasting of Easter!

Hours spent snuggling beautiful new niece - priceless!



11 March 2015

In which I was shocked. Shocked, I tell you!

I witnessed something shocking yesterday, and it is a sign of our times that what I witnessed did shock me.

I was driving the back roads yesterday afternoon, baby-drunk from having held sweet little Beauty in my arms for an hour when I noticed the car ahead of me weaving. (Editor's note: being baby-drunk is not an impairment to safe driving habits.)  Nothing too alarming, just a gentle - but consistent - swoop from one side of his lane to another, like a somnolent version of pong. It didn't concern me too much because he stayed inside his lines and he was good about coming to a complete stop at the stop signs, and he slowed to 50 when we went through the village.  That lawful attention to the speed limit is a clue, by the way. It would be a detail Hercule Poirot would tell his assembled audience as he unfolded the solving of the crime, but they wouldn't have paid attention to it, thinking it an unnecessary detail.  Pay attention, dear reader! It is a clue.

After a four-way stop, just as I cleared the intersection behind him, his window rolled down, and out went a cigarette butt. (I'm sorry, Reader, if you are a smoker, but smoking is a filthy habit. Gum up your lungs if you must, but please don't huddle in front of public doorways so the rest of us must pass through the miasma of smoke... and please don't toss your ends on the sidewalk!  It is garbage, so throw them in the garbage!) (Oops, sidetrack!)  The cigarette hitting the road was the moment when I gasped in shock - though a mild, almost-amused version of shock. And then I scolded him. He probably didn't hear me because we were in separate cars and all, but I couldn't help myself. I even shook my finger at him. My father would have been proud of me, as he was a champion finger-shaker.  And then, a beer can flew out of his window! A beer can! At four in the afternoon! Right out the window! The nerve, the gall, the brass of the guy, first of all to be drinking beer while driving, but most of all that he just opened his window and let the can fly, for all to see, like he didn't care who knew he was drinking and driving.  But more than that - he was littering and driving!

So there I put the pieces together: his gentle wandering within his lane, the oh-so-careful complete stops, and the close attention to the decreased speed zones. The man was drunk. Clearly he didn't know he was littering.

Get this: this morning I witnessed it again. Oh, not the drinking and driving, thank goodness as the sun had barely cleared the horizon. No, a man ahead of me pitched first a large bundle of crumpled fast food restaurant napkins and then a paper cup right out into the middle of a busy four-lane city street. I was not amused. No, this time I was angry. I considered taking a photo of his licence plate and sending it to the police with a detailed account of his crime. I thought about following him to his destination in order to berate him. Then I wondered if a loud honk of the horn would adequately communicate my utter disgust at his behaviour. By that point he'd pulled over into a left-turn lane, and as I drove up alongside him, I noticed the complete Pig-Penian state of his vehicle: pizza boxes on the rear window ledge, newspapers and other clutter on the dashboard piled so high I could barely see him. He probably didn't have anywhere to put the napkins and cup but the street. If he'd tried to add it to the landfill inside his car, the doors would have given way and everything would have exploded outward like a jack-in-the-box.

Canadians are no more or less human than humans found in other countries. Yet my belief, whether based on fact or the opinions of visitors from away, is that Canada is a fairly tidy country. In general our cities are clean and the country-side free of trash. We've been taught in our schools to "give a hoot, don't pollute!" and "don't be a litterbug", and to recycle everything, even the kitchen sink - to the point that it is now nearly the most heinous crime most of us will witness in our real lives (apart from watching tv, that is) so vile and unconscionable does it strike us.

This was brought home to me when I watched a season or two of Mad Men. As you know, it's about a man who stole another man's identity, lies, cheats, and works with lying, cheating, womanizers who spend their work day drinking scotch and smoking cigarettes. All of that I took in stride. Oh, Don, that philanderer, I'd think to myself, prepared to excuse his infidelity and explain away his lies.  But then in one episode he did something I just cannot forgive him for.  He took his family on a picnic to a lovely green park, and when they left, they left behind their garbage!  Right there in the open! He didn't even look for a garbage can!

I was shocked!  Shocked, I tell you. I gave up any hope of his redemption at that point.

04 March 2015

The month that was: February

Oh dear.  The numbers are grim, but for the sake of accountability, here they are:

Blog posts: 2

Books read: 11

Writing elsewhere: 2

Crocheted baby blankets: 1

Brand new baby nieces: 1 !!



The Family of Nuts have added one to their number. Baby Girl Nut was born at the close of the most difficult February since... well, ever, really, and with her arrival has wiped away all the grim leaving only joy and gratitude.

Imagine a family of five boisterous, enthusiastically boyish boys. Imagine those boys having a very boisterous, enthusiastically boyish dad, and a mother who has surrendered any hope of bringing even a touch of pink into the house.

Now imagine into that family comes the most adorable, the loveliest, the sweetest little girl ever, and you must also imagine that 6 very boisterous, enthusiastically boyish hearts melting into 6 puddles of tenderness.

Also imagine one very smitten aunt.  I am in love with this little Peanut.



So, babies and winter.  That's what I've been up to this February.

21 February 2015

Getting bloggy with it

On many occasions in the past while I've thought to myself: "Oh, I should blog that." but then, of course, I don't.  I'm really good with the brilliant ideas and less brilliant with the execution of them.


I've decided to focus more on my own writing instead of writing prompts. They work wonderfully to get the rusty machine moving again, but I have so little time to give to writing that I've been able to only do the prompts. There are two tentatively begun stories I'm going to pursue plus an idea for a children's book I'd like to tackle.  Wish me luck!  (Or send me glue to keep me in my seat. Either one.)

~*~

It is Murphy's Law in a library that a patron will not approach the counter until they see you sit down.  They will not come in out of the cold unless they know you've been up at the counter for a while, waiting for someone to need your assistance and have just sat down at your desk to work on that pesky ILLO you can't seem to track down. That's when they'll come. Oh, that Murphy, he's such a card!

~*~

I despise the term 'hubby'.  Despise it.  It makes me cringe every single time I hear it or read it.  Men seldom get the encouragement and affirmation they need in this crazy world, let's not diminish them even more with cutsie, dismissive language!

~*~

My word, it is cold.  I don't just mean 'It's winter, so of course it's not warm', but full-on, hard-core, they'll-find-me--stuck-to-my-front-door-in-the-spring cold.

~*~

I've given up wasting time for Lent, by which I mean I've given up being on facebook and other such temptations.  It's going great so far... I've only climbed the walls once!

~*~

I gave in. I've been reading Jane Austen fan fiction.  Jane, you see, wrote only so many books, and one can only read them again and again so many times in one calendar year, so what's a poor girl to do?  
She reads badly written Jane Austen knock-offs, apparently.
To be fair, some of them have been not only interesting, but well-written.  Some of them, though, like the one I tried this morning, have Lizzy 'cackling'.  Cackling!  Would Jane Austen ever have one of her character cackle? I ask you!  The author blurb of this farce informs us that she has been a teacher of the English language for years and years. I can't help wondering if in all those years she has escaped learning what the word 'cackle' means, or noticing that only evil step-mothers do it?
The author is also preoccupied with 'chin lines'.  Every other page she describes someone's chin line.  It's stubborn or pensive or is being caressed. Have you ever come across that phrase before?

~*~

Here are a few recent CTKS:
Busy making paper crowns and rings of power, Five was testing out one particular ring creation. Taking it off, he showed it to his mom for her appreciation. When she duly admired it, he said, "It's for you, mom, you can have it."  She praised him for his generosity, to which he replied, "That's ok... it wasn't working for me, anyway."

Asked by an adult what he wanted to be when he grew up, Five replied, "Myself, of course. What do  you suppose?"

08 February 2015

The month that was : January

Month in review: January

It's no good resolving to do a thing and then not being accountable for doing the thing.  I've resolved to spend more time being creative this year, particularly reading more, writing with more focus, and doing the crafty things that bring me contentment. As for accountability, I think my successes and failures displayed here gives me very little room to hide.  I know this is of no interest to readers; it is for my own motivation.

14 books read
8 Lighthouse posts
5 articles written elsewhere
1 nearly-finished baby blanket
0 time given to a percolating story idea


Mr. Jellyfish

Five Sentence Fiction from Lillie McFerrin Writes.
This week's prompt word is 'villainous'.

I first had visions of villains in black masks leaning over damsels tied to railway tracks.  But then I experienced a jellyfish in human form which felt much more villainous, and tried to put into words what the encounter was like. I tried it as a story but it remained fragments that I've assembled into a sort-of-poem.

He floats along on currents of impulse,
No hint of intent or purpose.
Though he seems so benign, approachable,
His words sting where they land like a tentacle.
When I try to describe him
I know there's something he's hiding
'Cuz he's shifty and shapeless -
It's hopeless.
He tries to draw me in
With his charm and a grin
But it's nothing, it's empty -
I'm prey.
I try to be small, not moving at all
'Till he decides I'm no fun and moves on.




30 January 2015

Of bedtime, and all times: Five Sentence Fiction

From Lillie McFerrin Writes, comes Five Sentence Fiction: it's about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist.  This week's prompt is 'Bedtime'; here is my response:

Lillie McFerrin Writes


All the times.

Those moments between waking and alarm; treasured like ballet flats that don't pinch - so divine.
The first taste of coffee, a caffeine jolt; tastes of necessity and attitude - it's sublime.
Take a midday pause, look up, draw breath- breathe a sigh.
Bath time and story; plump cheeks, fluffy hair - child of mine.
Feathers and cotton; warmth and comfort - bedtime.

27 January 2015

Five sentence fiction: Abandon

From Lillie McFerrin Writes comes Five Sentence Fiction.

Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist.  This week's prompt is 'abandon'









ABANDON

"...and when the green light goes on, watch for my signal."
Tracey took a deep breath, meeting the eyes of the three others sitting opposite her.  When the green light flashed at them, they nodded bracingly at each other, tugging their shoulder straps as they got into position.
She felt the tap on her shoulder, indicating it was her turn to approach the door.  With eyes closed against fear, she thought of everything she knew, and stepped out of the plane.

23 January 2015

An offering: five sentence fiction

I am, once again, well behind in participating in Five Sentence Fiction (from Lillie McFerrin Writes).
Last week's prompt was Offering.  Here is mine, to you:


This was heartbreak, then. As the moments wore on he could feel all hope of happiness slipping through his fingers.

“But can’t you love me, even a little?” he begged from the very depths of his being.

“Oh, my dear David,” she said, with pity. “I cannot give you what is not mine to give. You see, Robert has my heart.”