Friday, December 30, 2005

We're not in right now, but please leave a message . .

. . . after this post and I'll get back to you just as soon as I can.
Well, my few and faithful readers, I'm going to Winnipeg for two weeks. I may or may not get a chance to post while I'm in the Peg, so I'll probably talk to y'all in a few weeks.

Have a great New Years!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas and Labour

About a week before Christmas, I began to think of the Christmas story in a new light. I was thinking about what it must have been like for Mary to be in labour that night. Was she already having contractions as they went from Inn to Inn? Was there an edge of desperation in this search? Was Joseph just hoping she could hang on a little longer, stay on the donkey long enough for them to find some place to stay? Did Mary's impending birth and the mess and noise involved suddenly change Innkeeper's minds, so that they had "no room"?

Who delivered baby Jesus? There is no midwife, or other female mentioned in the story, so one must assume that Joseph the humble carpenter delivered the baby of his bride-to-be in a stable surrounded by horses and cows. I suspect that neither of them, especially Joseph, had previous experience with childbirth. It must have been a somewhat harrowing experience.

And then, after all that, when Mary was exhausted and elated and trying to figure out how to nurse the baby, there were shepherds and sheep everywhere who wanted to see the baby. Did she want them to go away so she could get some sleep? Was she strong enough to greet them? Were the shepherds loud and boisterous or gentle and respectful? Did they help Joseph clean up the stable and get everything sorted out?

All these questions have started bouncing around in my head. But the image that stays with me the most is one of a young girl, in labour, riding a donkey. She is trying to stay calm and focused. She knows they will find a place to stay soon. She trusts that God will not allow his son to be born in a ditch or the middle of a city street. But it is looking more and more hopeless as time goes on. And the pains are coming faster, and she is trying to contain the pain and not be overwhelmed by this full body experience until they get to a safe place.

There is all this unspoken fear and suspense and determination behind the story. All this pain and mess and reality behind the simple words, "While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

Monday, December 19, 2005

My Two Cents on the Child Care Issue

We here in Canada are in the middle of an election right now and one of the issues on the table is a proposal for a National Child Care Program. The former government, the Liberals, were planning to create a national subsidized Day Care program. Now that they are electioneering they are calling it and "Early Learning and Child Care Program". They are saying that they would like all Canadians to have access to the best quality care for their children.

As a stay at home Mom, I find this slightly offensive. Are they suggesting that a paid government employee can give my child better quality care than I can? That just because he or she has a degree in Early Childhood Education they are more qualified to raise my son than I, his mother? That he will learn more being in a regimented programmed environment with multiple children his age than he will spending time dialoguing and reading one-on-one with me, or helping and observing me bake, clean, cook, socialize and shop?

I am not saying that it is not important for there to be good quality day care for those who are interested in going back to work. I am just wondering why it is fair for billions of dollars to be put into a child care program which excludes those who choose to care for their own children. It seems to me that this is yet another way in which parents who choose to care for their children are subtly demeaned by Canadian society. If we were really "good" people we would want our children to be a part of this "early learning" program and get back to being productive members of society by rejoining the workforce.

Doesn't this suggest an underlying social agenda? One that encourages all Canadians to have families where both parents work and the children go to state run Day Care and then to state run schools. An agenda that teaches children from one year of age onwards the norms and values that the state desires to promote, as opposed to any ethics or beliefs a parent might wish to pass on to their child.

Personally, I am not up for this agenda. I think it is silly of Paul Martin to accuse the Conservative Party of having an "hidden agenda" when they offer to give all parents of children under 6 money to spend on the child care method of their choice. Parents can use the money to subsidize their Day Care expenses, to pay a babysitter, to enrich their single income family standard of living, or, if they really want to, to buy beer and popcorn. It seems to me that giving every family money means giving every family a choice. Yes, such a plan does support stay at home parents. But it also equally supports parents who go back to work and want to pay for another child care alternative. In my mind that is a equitable system. It is a system that supports authentic diversity as opposed to covert hegemony.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Snow Days -- Part Two


So, my husband goes to get the hood of the car unfrozen and get the car started. You know what happened? He got someone to drive him over there. He got into the car. And it STARTED! No need to pry the hood open, no need to get a boost . . . some people have all the luck!

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The Warrior PrincessYou are strong, courageous, and dynamic, a woman of action. You have an iron will and a sharp tongue. Indecisive, weak, or wishy-washy people test your patience. You tend to grow bored quickly and yearn for excitement.Role Models: Brunhilde/The Valkyries, XenaYou are most likely to: Lead your people to victory against an army of orcs.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Snow Days -- Part 1 -- Wednesday Morning

Remember my post yesterday about the snow? Well, it is still snowing. The roads are a mess. You can only drive in the tracks of other vehicles, and then only if you can manage to get out of your driveway without being stuck, because there is over a foot of snow now. The roads in town haven't been cleared yet because the plows are still busy trying to get the highway cleared.

Today was our playgroup's Christmas party, and the last playgroup until January. I decided that I had to go because I missed last week, and if you miss too many weeks you get out of the loop. So my intrepid son and I drove to playgroup with no problems. We almost got stuck backing out of our driveway, but with just a bit of a kick at the packed snow around us, I got us free. We just didn't stop on the way there, and we kept the car in second gear.

Everything was all good. We had fun at the Christmas party. Andrew wandered around and enjoyed to toys for once -- he is really just getting old enough to have fun. I sat and drank coffee and visited -- I am just really starting to get to know people.
Santa came, and he got a book wrapped up so it seemed "new". He only tried to unplug the christmas tree twice, and didn't try to steal anyone esle's presents, so it was a succcess.

Until we got out to the car. Then I realized I had left my lights on, and the battery was dead. So I found another woman who offered to jump the car. At which point I discovered that the hood was frozen shut. No matter how much I chipped away at the hood, I could not get it to open enough to actually pop the hood and get at the catch that opens the hood.

So the woman offered to give me a ride. Which I thought was cool, except that she was also giving another woman and her child a ride, and there were no back seats in her van. So Andrew and I got the seats, and both of their kids sat in the back without seatbelts. I didn't feel very comfortable with that, so I ended up walking. Yes, WALKING, with my 25 lb toddler who was not wearing his full snow gear and had exposed legs. I tucked his legs into my jacket and waded through the foot and a half of unplowed snow on the four blocks home. It was my workout for the day, I tell you!

Now I and Andrew are at home and warm, and the problem of our car has been left with my husband. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Corner Gas

I don't have tv, although I own a television set and a DVD player, it is not hooked up to any means of receiving a television signal. But I have been hearing about this show called Corner Gas, which is about Saskatchewan. When I was in the video store the other day, they had last season's episodes on DVD, so I decided to rent one.

My husband and I wathced all 6 episodes in a day and a half. It is such a funny show, and so many of the details are so true of Saskatchewan. It is sort of like a Canadian version of Seinfeld. There are 8 main characters who all live in Dog River, Saskatchewan. The main place of action is the gas station and attached diner. It is basically just about these quirky characters lives.

Brent Butt, the producer / writer / main character is brilliant. The show is full of funny plot lines, quirky characters and great dialogue. One of my favorite techniques that is used by the show is the "flashback" or "dream sequence". It is used to flash to what the character's are thinking, or to what else is happening in town. There are also some great cameos, like when Brent kicks the Tragically Hip out of his garage when they are pracicing. They say, "But we were just working on lyrics" and he replies "Don't tell me what the poets are doing".

I also like the Saskatchewan humour that is added into it. For example, in one episode Brent's mom makes nanaimo bars. But she insists on calling them "Nanaimo - type Saskatchewan bars". That is Sasktachewan through and through. Or when the police officers pretend not to know that the rest of their baseball team is drinking, and the team pretends not to know that they know that the officers know, just so no one will have an akward moment. It's pure Canadian, especially prairie, politeness.

If you have never seen this show, all I can say is get a hold of a copy and watch it. It is so funny that we have now watched the entire first two seasons in the last week. Out of all 26 ish episodes, there was only one we didn't think was hilarious. This is Canadian humour at its best. Enjoy.

We've got SNOW!

It is SNOWING. The capitals have to be there, because it is not just snowing. It is SNOWING. I shovelled about 20 cm of snow out of the driveway around 1:30 and two hours later you can't even tell that I did anything! I guess our white Christmas has come.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Is this accurate, or what?

You're A Prayer for Owen Meany!

by John Irving

Despite humble and perhaps literally small beginnings, you inspire
faith in almost everyone you know. You are an agent of higher powers, and you manifest
this fact in mysterious and loud ways. A sense of destiny pervades your every waking
moment, and you prepare with great detail for destiny fulfilled. When you speak, IT

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at the Blue Pyramid.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Food for Thought

This great quote was tagged onto someone's signiture on a message board I post on a lot:

"When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society -- so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged." M. Brinkerhoff.

There are huge issues to explore in this quote, but right now there is one thing that comes to my mind. When I was taking my "Ethics in the Classroom" course at SFU, the whole abortion / keeping the baby issue came up. And I noticed something: young pregnant teens are presented with the above false dichotomy: you can have an abortion or you can keep the baby and take care of it yourself. I rarely hear anyone anywhere in our society mention the third option: you can give the child up for adoption.

I think this is because in many ways this option is the most difficult. First, you have to carry the baby to term and deliver it. Then, after this, you must give that baby you carried for 9 months, your own flesh and blood, to someone who you do not know, and ask them to care for and raise your child. After this, you must go through the greiving process of losing that child, even though they are alive and well in the world.

But on the positive side, you gain much, as a young woman, from taking this route. First, if you are not in a condition to raise that child well, you have ensured that your child will be raised in a more stable environment than you might be able to provide. Second, you do not have to live with the knowledge that you have chosen to end a human life. Although you may not see that child, you know that they are alive and well and that you have given them that life.

I think this third option is healthier both physically and emotionally for said teen mom. But I have never seen or heard of it mentioned in any curriculum or program or video relating to teen pregnancy. Like abstinence, adoption is one of those things we think is too noble a choice to be "realistic" for teenagers. If only we had the courage to entrust our youth with hard but virtuous options.

Happy "Holidays"

I heard on the CBC this week that the governor general is going to put up a "Holiday" Tree rather than a "Christmas" Tree this year, so as not to offend anyone.

I have two questions: 1. Is she also going to light 8 "Holiday Candlesticks", or would that be mildly offensive to certain religious groups?

2. Why is it okay to believe anything you want to in Canada as long as you don't actually believe anything? As long as you don't make any absolute truth claims, you are okay. But say there is something called truth out there and everyone will jump down your throat for being a bigot.

Personally, I am going to have a Christmas tree, open Christmas presents, and sing Christmas carols. If my friends choose to celebrate other feasts and festivals this time of year I will not egg their houses or call them names or expect them to celebrate Christmas. But if they put up a tree, can they call it by its proper name? I've never heard of a Diwali tree or a Hanukkah tree or a Solstice tree. So can we call it what it is? Please?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It is so dry that . . .

the pictures of my friends' children that I keep on my refrigerator are curling

running a bath feels like walking into a rainforest

the moisture from your breath is stolen by the desperate air before it turns to steam

it has been below freezing for a month and there is only an inch of snow

you feel like a raisin when you wake up in the morning

your hands a feet look like raisins

Ah ha! Now I know why everyone in Saskatchewan lives so long! The dry winters preserve them like fruit or fish!

Like this is a surprise?

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You are sexy, powerful, and bold.
You're full of passion and energy...
Sometimes this passion has a dark side.

You feel most alive when you're seducing someone.
You never fail to get someone's attention.
Quick minded, you're also quick to lose your temper!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas Baking Made Complicated

I attempted to make truffles today. Last week I bought all the ingredients, and today I put together the first of three truffle - like creations I am planning on making for Christmas presents. So I chopped up the chocolate and boiled the cream and added the butter and cream -- no problem. I added the chocolate and melted it down and poured the concoction into a shallow dish to cool.

Five hours later, despite the fact that my 14 month old refused to sleep, I hauled it out of the fridge and proceeded to "Using a spoon, scoop 24 rounded teaspoonfuls of the cold chocolate mixture onto a sheet of wax paper. Coat your palms with cocoa and roll each mound between your palms to form a ball". Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

Not with a fussing toddler in a backpack on your back, and a warm kitchen. No, what you end up with are very sticky hands, cocoa all over the kitchen and the big roll of wax paper unwinding all over the floor where you toddler has kicked it in anger because you won't let him down.

So, after all this, I finish about half the truffles and I decide to taste one. And you know what? They were DISGUSTING. I guess baker's chocolate was not the best choice for something that's only other ingredients are cream and butter.

Now I have an even worse quandry: do I give gross truffles out as gifts? Do I just give them to people I don't like? Do I throw them out and waste $6 worth of chocolate and 1c. of whipping cream? Do I send them to starving children in Africa?

No, my friends. When the world gives you terrible, bitter truffles . . . make FUDGE! I melted down the truffles and added lots of icing sugar. Now my kitchen is covered in fine white powder as well as find brown powder and numerous sheets of wax paper. I guess I should go and clean it up.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Words, words, words

It is really funny to hear my son learn language. Especially since I try to pronounce things clearly for him, so he can learn words. Sometimes I must be a bit too "clear" because he comes out with extra syllables and sounds in words. Eg -- today he has started saying "owuaps". In other words, oops. On the other side of the coin, I play chase with him and call out "gonna getcha"! He calls back "Gongeddya". Or "Cheese" which he pronounces perfectly, but only in a hissing whisper, because I always emphasize the "ch" sound. Another multi-syllabic silliness is "Eauras" -- ears. Perhaps my son in learning middle english, rather than the modern variety. Ah, well. Once we're through with "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and "Goodnight Moon" we shall proceed to "Canterbury Tales" and "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in the original languages.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Similarities Between Myself and the Queen

I have come to the conclusion that Anglican minster's wives are sort of like the Queen. Your job is essentially to make an appearance. You show up, looking acceptable, chit chat, smile, and then leave. To actually attempt to get too involved would be like the Queen showing up in the kitchen, rolling up her bejeweled sleeves and washing dishes.

This is a new thought for me, since in the Baptist church minister's wives are more like the Prime Minister's cheif assistant. You must run the choir or play the piano, run the sunday school or kids' club, attend or comandeer a ladies' bible study of some sort, bring baking to everything and always have a pot of coffee on and a plate of cookies readily available. You are the right hand woman.

So imagine my surprise when I am asked to do, well, nothing. Except show up.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

IF I have to read "The Belly Button Book" One More Time . . .

Sorry, but I can't come to my blog right now. I'm busy reading the Belly Button Book for the 100th time today. Let's all sing along to the happy hippo belly button song. All together now . . .

Monday, November 07, 2005

Baby and Cat

So, my cat is not the most social of creatures. I named her Beckett after the reclusive, oddball playwrite Samuel Beckett, and she has lived up to that name. She does, however, like my toddler.

This morning I was sitting on the floor in the kitchen reading a book to my toddler, when the cat decided to join us. She sat on the string to my toddler's pull-along turtle toy. Since I know she loves playing with string, I started swishing it around while I read to the baby, and the cat started batting at it and chasing it. Well, I got the baby's attention, and he was loving this game with the cat. The cat noticed that the baby was interested, and assumed he was interested in the string. So she grabbed the string in her mouth and pulled the string and entire plasic turtle (about half her size) around the corner. Then my toddler got up and followed her, determined to "give" the toy to the cat. The cat, of course, ran away.

I decided that, since the toddler had taken over the toy, I would tie some shoelaces together for the cat to play with. So I get the string ready, and of course now my toddler is interested in the string. I sit him on my lap to watch, and then get the cat chasing the string. The baby wants to get involved, so I give him the end of the string and try to show him how to walk the string around the house. I think maybe the cat will then follow the toddler, and they will both be amused. Nope. The baby decides to pick up the string in the middle and chase the cat around while waving the string at her.

Perhaps 14 months is a bit young to encourage too much cat - toddler interaction.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bulk Food: Friend or Foe?

Alright, this goes along with the home grown vegetables. I am afraid of bulk food. I keep telling myself that the reason I don't buy bulk more is because I would have to take an extra trip to Nutters (the bulk food / health food store) to do so. But I know in my heart of hearts that this is not really the case! The fact is, that I am afraid of bulk food. After all, who knows who has put their hands into those bins? Who knows where that flour came from and wether someone licked it as they put it into that big orange flip-top lidded container. Did the marachino cherries come out of one of those big trucks that has a sign that says "NOT DRINKING WATER" on the back? How long do they keep the food before they throw it out? What sort of additives did those smiling ladies in the green aprons put in my brown rice before they put it on display?

There are just too many questions about bulk food. My imagination goes wild when I walk into a bulk food store. I can't help it. It just seems so much safer to buy a bright yellow bag full of flour than it does to scoop it out of a big bin. I like my bright yellow bag of flour. I don't care if it costs an extra .50 cents! It is strangely comforting for me to pour that big bag of flour into my tupperware container that I bought to encourage myself to buy bulk. Sigh. I guess this will change as my family increases and our income doesn't. But for now, I not so proudly support overpackaging and giant multi-national food conglomerates! Yay Robin Hood flour!

Stats at 30

So, I turned 3o ten days ago. I was thinking about this on my way home from the mall today as I walked in the biting cold prairie wind, and I decided to compile a list of my life statistics thus far:

Numbers of years alive: 30
Number of years living with parents: 18
Number of years living with husband: 12
Number of years in school: 20
Number of years gainfully employed: 5
Number of years as SAHM: 1

Elementary schools attended: 5
Highschools attended: 2
Universities attended: 4

Dead end fast food jobs worked over summers during university: 5
Schools taught at during time as highschool teacher: 4
Years as highschool teacher: 3
Subjects taught while a highschool teacher: 7
Students taught (aprox): 450

Number of marriages: 1
Divorces: 0
Children conceived: 1
Children born: 1

Countries lived in: 1
Cities lived in: 6
Houses lived in: 5
Appartments lived in: 5

Regrets: few
Accomplishments: some decent ones
Friends: many, some that I even keep in touch with still, many that I miss
Marriage: stormy beginning, but now good
Career: was amazing and exciting, but on hold for now
Parenthood: difficult and frustrating, but rewarding
Faith: up and down, but my commitment and faith never waver, just my discipline
Overall accessment: Not too bad. I'm pretty happy so far. I thought I would have accomplished more by now, but I have had lots of great friends, and some pretty interesting experiences, so that makes up for it. I'm just trying not to be a "peak too soon" kind of person.

Business and Boredom

I have never been so busy and so bored at the same time. This is the crazy thing about being a stay at home mom to a toddler: there is so much to do and it is all so mindless! I feel like I have two options. I can do all of the things that need doing around the house and allow my brain to die a slow death via starvation or I can not get everything done around the house and do something that is actually interesting. Of course this means ignoring my toddler, or wrestling to keep him off the computer desk while I type, or allowing him to chew on power cords while I get one more sentence of my novel read.

For a while, I had it perfectly balanced. I was keeping the house tidy and relatively clean and I was really quite happy about it. I felt like I had succeeded at the mommy thing. Yay Jill! Then I realized that now that I could do it properly I didn't want to any more. It was all so boring and repetative. Why spend all my time vacuuming and mopping when my husband is going to come home in a rush and forget to take his shoes off, and then my toddler is going to throw cottage cheese half way across the room? Why pick up the toys only to have them flung on the floor again the next morning? What is the point!

The problem is that now I am just being lazy. I sit around and reading and not getting anything done. It is terrible. My house is not as nice as it was. I don't have that satisfied tidy-house feeling, and I"m not doing anything useful or productive. Its not as if I'm writing or creating something. I have abandoned my lists and schedules. I am getting sluggish. But I am still bored, and annoyed at myself on top of that.

So, oh reader, what is the solution? How do I keep my house, my toddler, and my sanity all intact?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Adventures in Quilting: Part 1 - Buying Fabric

I have decided that, as part of my domestication, I should learn to quilt. To this end, I signed up for a quilting class. Now, these classes take place at the local fabric store and the woman who runs them is quite familliar with me. I come in with my jogging stroller every few weeks and ask for strange and obscure things. She looks at me sideways and shows me where those things are, and then walks away after I completely ignore her suggestions. So when she told me that I would have to come into the store so she could help me pick fabric I knew it could be interesting.

For the quilt pattern that I am making, the first fabric you need to pick is your main print. All the others are chosen around this first print. On my sheet it is called a "floral". I guess I wasn't reading my sheet very well. The first fabric I picked was a funky fabric covered in little round multi-coloured circles. It looked like a great polyester shirt from the 70's. It had various shades of brown, green, tuqoise and pale blue, with tiny flecks of yellow. You are then supposed to pick one colour from that print and find a lighter and darker fabric in that colour. Well, first I went hunting for the cool tuqoise colour, but it was nowhere to be found in the store. The woman pulled out two soft, pastelish greens which I quickly vitoed. I asked her if she had any fabric in the brown that I could see in the quilt. She looked rather dismayed and pulled some soft blue fabrics for me to look at. I asked her if she had the bight turqoise. She said "The greens really do look nice with it . . ". I paused.

I asked how much the fabric cost. Why the sudden question? Well, firstly becuase there were no evident prices anywhere on the bolts. Secondly, because if I am going to make a cheap quilt, I don't care if its not perfect.If I am going to make an expensive quilt, I want it to be beautiful. She told me how much the fabrics cost and she must have seen my face drop at her astronomical figure, because she said, "why don't you see if you can find anything in the bargain bin up at the front, dear. They're $6 a metre."

Up to the front I boldly trekked, searching desperately for something reasonably priced to make my quilt out of. SHe followed me and pulled several "lovely" florals that I might like to use for the pattern on my quilt. I kept looking through the bin. Finally I found a green that I liked -- a warm, medium green. Then I found a black with the same colour of green vines twining through it. I though "these are really cool". So I pulled them, along with about half a dozen other things.

Back I went to the cutting table that was now strewn with bolts of cloth. We found one set of matching fabrics that were all from the $6 bin. Unfortunately, one was a medium floral print and the other two were soft blue. where, in my house, would I put a quilt in those colours? In the basement in a box, that's where.

So I hemmed and hawed and looked at this, and looked at that, when suddenly it hit me. I should make a BLACK quilt with the two greens as the contrast colours! So I ran to the regular priced fabric, thinking, "If I have two sale priced colours, I can afford one regular priced colour". And there is was, in the black section. A beautiful deep black with a small geometric pattern of aleternating daisies and spirals. I triumphantly brought it back to the cutting table, very excited with my find. After all, the green contrasts would bring out the red in the pattern, and vice versa. My problem was solved! I had found my quilt fabric!

I proudly showed the saleslady what I had found. I smiled with satisfaction. "Well, yes, you COULD do that", she conceded. And I will.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Fool's Errand : Book Review

This is the first book in the Tawney Man series by Robin Hobb. It picks up where the Farseer Trilogy left off but 15 years in the future. Once more it chronicles the thoughts and adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard in the royal family of the Six Dutchies. After 15 years of self-imposed exile, Fitz returns to the court at Buckeep under an assumed identity along with his friend the Fool. They are charged with the task of finding the soul heir to the throne, Prince Chivalry Farseer, who has gone missing.

The first third of this book re-introduces the characters fromthe first trilogy, as well as several new characters. It tells the reader what has happened to Fitz in the intervening 15 years, and sets the stage for his return to Buckeep. The second two thirds of the book concerns Fitz and the Fools' efforts to find Prince Chivalry and return him to Buckeep Castle. It is a fairly straighforward plot but it has enough surprises and twists to keep the reader's attention.

I found this book to be lighter and more entertaining than the previous trilogy. Its plot was more straightforward than the first two books, and its climax and conclusion more satisfying than the final book in that trilogy. This is partially due to the characters involved. FitzChivalry is 15 years older and has, thankfully, matured slightly. I found him to still be an anti-hero (he maintains his role as Catalyst to others heroics), but an older, wiser and thankfully less self-absorbed man. He still has a dark side, but his choices are marked by greater maturity. The Fool has always been a foil to Fitz's darkness. Despite his role as White Prophet, he is still a fun character and he brings a lot of humour and irony to the book. He is also my favorite character from the first series, so I am glad that he is a central character in this second series.

If you like fantasy I would definitely suggest you read this book. It gives enough background that you could read it without having read the Fareseer Trilogy. It was entertaining and engrossing. During the last two days I was reading it I all but neglected my housework and only vaguely supervised my son. I was so worried about how Fitz and the Fool were going to get out of one scrape that I found it hard to carry on a conversation with someone I ran into while I was grocery shopping. So, I have a bit of an overactive imagination and when someone says to me "suspend your disbeleif" I say "what disbeleif?" But that aside, it was a good book. Read it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Receiving as a Form of Giving

You know what drives me crazy? People who can't receive. I know that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. I know we are to lay down our lives for others and that it is better to give than to receive. But I think there is also merit in knowing when to allow others to give back.

For example, I have recently had guests to stay at my house for the weekend. While they were here, they wanted to take us out to dinner for almost every meal. They raked all our leaves. They washed my dishes. They wanted to cook all the meals we ate at home. While this was all very kind, I felt frustrated by the end of the weekend. Why? Because I had wanted to be able to host my guests -- to make meals for them and clean up while they visited and allow them to enjoy spending time with my son. I felt like I was not allowed to do anything for these people without them recompensing me.

There are times when we all have needs, and we can not fill them ourselves. There are times when we have what it takes to meet others needs. If we do not admit our needs and allow others to give to us, we will burn out and run dry. If we never get to use our gifts to help others we will feel useless, frustrated and unappreciated. What we need to do is find the humility to accept kindnesses from others.

Being a gracious receiver is also a form of giving. It allows the giver to feel as though their gift mattered to you. I allows you to build a give and take relationship with the person. If you are a gracious receiver, it makes it easier for that person to ask you for something later, because they do not feel like you will be doing it out of "obligation", nor that you are "keeping score". Mutual giving and taking is the basis for any really good friendship or marriage.

Friday, October 14, 2005


So, my town has a city - wide playgroup. This is great, because everyone puts in a nominal fee and gets to bring their kids to a big gym with lots of toys once a week. In winter it helps the kids blow off steam and the parents get out of the house. There is tea / coffee / hot chocolate for the moms and a snack and crafts for the kids. I love the idea of a citywide playgroup.

But the reality is that there are about 20 - 25 moms there. Most of them have grown up together / go to the same church / are Kinettes. So they know each other already. They know everyone in town. They like to sit together and gossip about other people in town and talk about whatever. The problem is that it makes it hard for new moms to break into the group. There is a small group of new moms that kind of hover around the edges. We stand like the kid who wasn't picked for either team of the soccer game, watching our little tot play, and hope someone will come over and talk to us. We hover over our child while they do their craft, thinking that maybe the mom next to us will spark up a conversation. Sometimes we even try to talk to each other.

But in such a huge setting, with so many kids and so much going on, how does one get beyond "how old is your baby / tot?" and "so how long have you lived in Melfort?". It is difficult to have a meanigful conversation and really get to know anyone. For me, as an intense, highly emotional kind of person, this small talk just doesn't cut it. I crave more. I need to really get to know people.

So, I have decided to start taking surveys every week. I will develop a list of non-mom oriented questions (since I suck at talking about being a mom -- have you noticed?) and ask them to everyone each week. I figure that maybe this will get people talking about non - mommish, non - did-you-hear-what-bob-did-last-week topics. Maybe it might even spark, God forbid, a CONVERSATION.

So, dear readers (I realize you are few and far between, but help me out here), give me some questions. Next week is "what is your favoirite genre of movie? Your all time favorite movie?". I will see what happens and get back to you. Maybe it will be fun. Maybe I'll just get weird stares. Maybe I will be completely shunned and forced to leave playgroup.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Fear of Home Grown Vegetables

I know that I am a child of the modern era because I am afraid of home grown vegetables. It is not so much that people have actually dug them out of the ground. That part I can handle. Nor is it the fact that I don't know wether the people grew them properly or not, since they are not expert farmers. No, it is their shape and colour. I have discovered that I am so used to homogenized food industry vegetables that I am disturbed by tiny beefsteak tomatos and potatos the size of my head, not to mention bumpy carrots. These really frighten me -- is it cancerous? Should I give it radiation treatment before I eat it?

Those funny scratchy scars that home grown vegetables sport also make me pause. Is it a virus? A fungus? A secret warning sign that the vegetable is not safe for human consumption? A former nesting place of a caterpillar? What is it exactly, and why is it on my food? Should I eat it or cut it out?

I am rather dismayed by this discovery, since I am quite crunchy. I like to go to farmer's markets and I like the idea of growing my own food or eating food from other people's gardens. But even though I know the pesticides are bad for me, I wonder if home grown food is safe. I worry about the whole lack of expertise and precisions put into home gardens. I mean, all they did was put the seeds in the ground and weed and water the soil and they got food? And I can eat it? Really? Wow. Crazy.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Why I Will Never Star in an Action Movie: Reason #1

I was reading an outdated copy of US magazine the other day and it was talking about Jennifer Garner preparing for her role as Elektra. It said that to get her super lean body she ate 1400 calories a day and did martial arts and weight training for several hours a day. She snacked on nuts in between meals of chicken and salad.

According to Shape Magazine (a reliable source, I know), an average woman should never go below 1500 calories when they are trying to lose weight, and a highly active woman, like Jennifer Garner was at this time, should eat around 2000 calories a day in order to stay healthy.

I will never star in an action movie because I think it is stupid to do long term damage to your body, even if it does mean you look really hot in a vinyl jumpsuit right now.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Christianity and the Human Desire for Power

In my confirmation class we have been going through the book of Mark. This last week we looked at passages in Mark 8 - 10. I was once more struck by the disciples' lack of ability to actually hear what is being said to them and clue into what Jesus is all about. He tells them 3 times that he is going to die. The first time, Peter corrects him. The next two times, they ignore Jesus and continue to argue about who is going to be in charge of the Kingdom of Heaven. James and John, being forthright guys, even come and ask Jesus if they can be his right and left hand men. When I first read this I was amazed at their audacity.

The more I thought about it, the less I was amazed. One of the things that has always made the Bible beleivable for me is that the Saints are all too human. The disciples probably think they are going to Jerusalem so that Jesus can take over from the Religious Leaders. After all, Jesus keeps talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. He has the power: he can raise the dead, heal the sick and outsmart all the religious teachers. He has been in an escalating power struggle with the religious leaders of his day. Surely at the end of this Jesus, the son of God, will win the power struggle and take over Jerusalem. Once he has that part of the Kingdom well in hand,he will spread out to Rome and then the World. James and John just want a spot on the Comittee that will head the New World Order. Is that too much to ask?

But in one of those paradoxes that makes me love Jesus and my faith, this is not what happens. Jesus warns them well ahead of time that he is not going to be a hero or a world ruler. He will lose the power struggle and go to the cross. He will die. He will lose the physical, political battle in order to win the spiritual battle. He will live and die his words that "the first shall be last and the last shall be first". He will be a true friend, and give up his life for those he loves.

This is one of the things that makes Jesus supernatural. He has the courage, in the end, to lose. To set aside power, reject the ego, and serve mankind. Imagine if more of the powerful people in our world took this seriously; if they, ironically, used their power to serve the weak and helpless of the world. Imagine if each one of us did this in our own life. What a beautiful place this world would be. One might almost call it something close to the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Friendship Dance

Remember when it was so easy to make friends? You would go up and say, "Hi, I'm Jill." And the other girl would say "Hi, I'm Suzanne." And you would say, "Do you want to play mermaids with me?" and they would say "OK." And you would be friends. The pact was sealed until you found a more interesting friend. Because you were only 10, after all, and easily bored.

Why is it so much more complicated at 29? I enter a new town, and I meet people I would like to be friends with. But now, I can't just walk up to them and say "Do you want to be my friend?". Now it is more like a dance.

A dance where we discover if we can really be friends. I think, "Maybe this person will be my friend". So I talk with them, or invite them over for coffee. But I don't share too much, and they don't share too much. First we need to know: are they trustworthy? will they tell other people? will they think I'm really weird and abandon me? will they think I'm too aggressive and shy away? will I put them off too much and they will think I don't like them?

Slowly, we reveal ourselves. Slowly, we get beyond the "Hi, my name is" and the "I'm from here" and the "I do this for a living". Gradually, step by step, to a tune we hope is the same as the other person's tune, we say, "This is what my family was like". We say, "This is something I am passionate about". We say, "This is one of my secrets". And we hope beyond hope that the next time we see them, they are still our friend.

Perhaps they will be a better friend, and the pace of the dance will quicken. Or perhaps the dance will fade away, and we will lose them. But if we want to be friends, we must dance this dance, for we are no longer young and innocent. We are scarred and we know that people are dangerous. Worse, we know ourselves well enough to know how we are a danger to others. And so we tread lightly, and we dance the dance in hopes of creating a real friend. For the older we get, the more we realize how precious a friendship is, and how difficult it can be to find a real friend.

The Birds Knew Something I Didn't

Fall has quit flirting with Summer. He has started pursuing that coy tease, Winter. She comes and goes. She kisses the ground, then melts away. She blows a gust, then turns away. She reminds us that this far north we may not be in her domain, but we are in her playground.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The television antenna

We do not have television. We have a television set, but we have no channels. The last time we had channels was in 2002 for a few months. Dave's brother decided that we needed an antenna, since we had a TV, so he bought us one. We hooked it up for a while. I watched Survivor and Friends every Thursday. Before that we had never had television since we got married in 1993.

Yesterday, we were bored. We didn't want to rent a movie, since there wasn't anything exciting in the video store. We couldn't go anywhere because our son was sleeping. We had done next to nothing all day on Dave's day off. So we decided to try to get a channel on our TV. I went to the basement and dug out the antenna. We set it on top of the TV and plugged it in.

We spent about 10 min. Figuring out that we had to turn off the cable function on our television before we could get it to work. Then we spent another 10 min. twiddling with the antenna while switching channels, trying to find a channel with a signal. Finally, we found it! Channel 11 had wavy lines, not just static! I left Dave to fiddle with the antenna and when I came back we had vague images moving across the screen. Yes, they were black and white, yes they were blurry, but you could see that there was something happening there!

What we couldn't figure out was why there was no sound. Usually with such a tantalizing picture you would get a pretty good sound quality, but there was nothing. Not a peep. So, we unplugged all the DVD cables, hoping that would result in a sound. Nothing. We twiddled with the different things on the antenna -- still no sound. So I decided to check if the sound cable was properly screwed into the plug at the back.

I took the antenna plug out of the TV. I checked it. It was fine. I put it back into the television. The picture was gone. Even the hint of a picture was gone. We turned the antenna every which way. We twiddled with the dial. We tried all kinds of settings on the TV menu. Nothing worked. Our hope of being reintroduced into the exciting world of moving pictures was over. Dave went to play on the internet. I washed the dishes. I decided it must the the antenna.

The Birds

We had some crazy bird action going on here on Sun. morning. I felt like I was watching the inspiration for Hitchcock's classsic. We have an apple tree in the back yard, and all the apples that we didn't get off the tree are now becoming bird food. Which is cool, because usually there will be lots of birds standing in our yard munching on apples.

Sunday morning was a whole other ballgame. There were robins everywhere. These were not the happy little robins you sing about in Kindergarten. These robins were swooping around our back yard in and out of trees,. They were standing facing each other and butting chests and flapping wings at each other. They were making formations and careening wildly around my yard and the neighbourhood. It was crazy.

I wonder, is it mating time? Doesn't that happen in the spring? Was it some sort of teenage pre-migration bird party? Were they deciding who gets the best condos when they arrive down south? Are my apples turning into bird alcohol? Was there a special south-northern wind blowing through the yard?

I showed this display of crazy robin behavior to my one year old son. He said "oh."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Missing a Multiplicity of Cultures

One of the things I have noticed about living in a small town is the lack of cultures. It is not that there is no culture in a smaller town. It is simply that there are only one or two cultures instead of many.

Let me give you an example. I used to live in Thunder Bay, a city of 117 000 people. There was an Italian hall, an Italian cappuccino bar (before they were cool), and several Italian Resteraunts. There was a Finnish Resteraunt, a Finnish community center, and several shops that imported goods from Finland. The same could be said for the Portugeese, the Ukranians, the Hungarians . . . you get the picture. Aside from this there was a Christian community that was small enough so that I could recognize almost all of the Christian teenagers in town, because our paths had crossed at various events. We had our own culture, our own community. But I was also part of a group of Catholic friends at school, who showed me how to pray the rosary and had me over for Easter dinner. I was also friends with a bunch of other people who were interested in music, and introduced me to jazz. I knew a lot about Finnish culture because I grew up in a Finn area of town . . . again, you get the picture.

The same was true, only more so, on the West Coast. When I taught at big highschools in Surrey there would be kids who were seperated by interests and general social status, just like anywhere else. But there were also kids who were friends because they were Phillipino, or Indo-Canadian, or Korean, or Iraqi. These kids rubbed elbows with each other and with the run of the mill "Canadian" kids, and voila, a cornucopia of intersecting cultures was born! It was wonderful to watch them learn to swear in other languages, listen and dance to music from other cultures, eat food they would have never otherwise sampled, and generally be exposed to ideas and experiences of people from all around the world. There is a certain depth that comes from the intersection of so many cultures. You see people differently. You learn that your perspective is not the only one. If you are open to it, you can learn to see the world through the eyes of a different culture, and understand why they act as they do. "They" becomes blurred with "us".

The strange, wonderful thing about Canada is that we, ideally, maintain both the "we" and the "us - them" simultaneously. I strive to maintain my own cultural / religious / personal identity while also being enriched by the cultures and religions of those around me. I become broadened and deepened by all this exposure and knowledge. Is it perfect? No. Does it always work this way? No. But if you allow yourself to be welcomed in, if you listen and watch and taste and ask questions, it is amazing what you can find out.

And that is one of the things I miss after my move to a 3 Horse town in Saskatchewan. I miss gyoza and curry and home made salad rolls dipped in peanut sauce. More, I miss my friends who have bravely married into multiculturalism. I miss soy-sauce basted turkey for Thanksgiving and my Japaneese friend learning to sing R&B and Italian arias. I miss my Malay friend teaching me how to make Yorkshire pudding correctly. I miss mis-understanding my American friend because we use the same word in such a slightly different way that we get half way through a conversation without realizing why we are both so confused. I miss all the differences I had learned to take for granted.

But yet, there is a subtle trap here. The trap is to think that I should instantly understand the culture here becuase everyone is white and mostly Christian. It is to think that I can walk in and not use those cross-cultural sensors here because everything looks familliar. The longer I stay here, the more I realize that things are not always so familliar. Now I am in a culture where the differences are more subtle. Where the great depression and World War II and the original homesteaders have left as indellible a mark as the Hong Kong Reappropriation has left of Vancouver. A strong sense of community and volunteerism, strangely paired with the notion that one should be independent and be able to provide for oneself -- and your neighbours to boot -- pervades the culture. This province of people whose ancestors dared to take ships across the ocean to start new lives in parts unknown. This province of people whose parents fed peniless, jobless drifters at their back door. This province of people who sent throngs of young men to fight for Queen and country.

This province tells its own story. It is not a story with a long history. It is often not even a flashy or exciting story. But it is a story the newcomer needs to listen to. For it is the story of these people with whom I live. And in order to understand them, I need to hear it. And so I listen. And slowly I understand. And one day I will take these stories with me, just as I take the stories of new immigrants just arrived full of hopes and dreams, longings for home and familliar sights and sounds and foods. And I will absorb them into myself as I have taken those other stories. And they will make me stronger and wiser, richer, and deeper.

Monday, September 19, 2005

When will he ever sleep?

After the bath where you stood up and peed into the bathtub and then splashed water all over my jeans
After we counted to 10 with Olivia more times than I can count
After the rocking chair and the soothing music
After you climbed all over my like a jungle gym and nursed simultaneously
After the saline drops and the nasal aspirator and the little rolls of kleenex to extricate the solidified snot
After we found out what Brown Bear saw . . several times
After you settled down and cuddled in and closed your eyes
After the cat jumped up on the bed and you sat up to see who was purring and to pull her ears
After you climbed around on the bed and I had to catch you before you got down on the floor and ran away
After I gathered you into my arms and settled you in for a serious nurse
After the lullabies and the prayer time
After you sat up and cried and burped and cried and burped
After I walked you around the house
After we rocked in the chair, cuddled up in our nursing shawl
After you climbed out of the rocking chair to investigate the stero and turned the soothing music up to a volume where it was no longer soothing
After I gathered you up and you screamed and we went for a walk to settle you down and I gave you tylenol in case it was your teeth
After we went back to bed and you nursed and nursed and nursed
After you pinched me and bit me and pulled my hair and laughed when I said ow
After you sat up and burped some more, so I gave you gripe water in case it was your tummy
After you settled down to nurse and then sat up again when the phone rang
After more saline drops in case the first hadn't taken
After you settled down and lay across my tummy and stared at the fan
After you crawled up and nursed and fell asleep on my arm
After you woke up and fussed when I tried to move you
After I settled you back down to sleep and snuck away
You went to sleep. For a while.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Feminism: The next generation?

I have been thinking a lot lately about wether I am a feminist or not. I am a stay at home mom. I plan to continue to be one, at least part time, for the near future. When I tell women of a certain age this (the ones who burned their bras in the 70's and wore power suits in the 80's), they seem somewhat dissapointed. It is as if I am letting them down; failing to reach for all the opportunities they have opened up to me. And so I ask myself, am I a feminist?

I like to think of myself as part of a new generation of feminists. I am like a lot of women I know. I vote. I went to university and outsmarted many of the men. I had a profession where I was paid the same salary as my male counterparts. I wear pants more often than skirts. I have opinions and ideas of my own, and I expect men to listen to them. But I am a devoted wife. I have grown my hair long again, because my husband thinks it is nice that way. I consider it important to stay at home with my children until they are in school. I am learning to clean house, and keep a well organized home. I am learning to decorate. I even, when I remember, wear mascara every day. I am rediscovering femininity of a kind that has not been popular in the last few decades, but that seems to be reemerging.

I am glad that I have the rights that I have. I use those rights when I need them. But I don't want to take a man's place in the world. I don't want to be a man; I want to be a woman.

I want to bear children and breastfeed them. I want to be the person that anchors their small, impressionable lives in these early years, not a babysitter or a daycare worker. I want to be able to be proud of my house, and be able to run it well. I want to learn to bake bread, and cook home made soup and can the apples on my tree. Essentially, I want to regain all the babies that were thrown out in the bathwater of early, militant feminism. And then, once I've done that, I want to have the right to go back to work and be a nurturing and wise highschool teacher, and a caring mother and wife.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I honour what past generations of women have given to me -- and that is the freedom to choose to marry or not, to have children or not, to work or not. Does this make me a feminist? I'm still not sure, but I'm working on it.

My squirrel

There is a squirrel in my back yard. He lives in the neighbour's tree, but at present he is busy collecting food for the winter. This includes the apples on our crab apple tree. The funny thing is, thought, that this is a little prarie squirrel, not a giant grey southern Ontario squirrel, so the apples are bigger than his head. He can't even fit his arms all the way around them. And yet he somehow manages to get enough in his mouth to carry the thing, and then he climbs up the side of the fence and carries it. As if this were not an onerous enough task, the board he walks along to get to his tree is interrupted ever 3 feet by fence posts. So he walks, walks, walks, jumps up, jumps down, walks, walks, walks, jumps up, jumps down all the way along the back of my yard. It is very amusing. I really want to show my baby, but I know he will just go "ooh" and point at the wind blowing in the branches of the apple tree, and completely miss the squirrel. I'm sure there's a metaphor about parents and children in there somewhere . . .

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blogs and Ender's Game

Has anyone else noticed this? In Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card predicted blogging, and predicted that it would become a major force in politics and society. Valentine and Peter, Ender's siblings, create blog personas that comment on important world events. Eventually they become so influential that Peter can be voted president of the Hegemony at the age of 15 or something. I find it so interesting that irl blogs are just beginning to influence world opinion, journalism, elections, etc.

One Year Old

How did one year go by so quickly? Just over a year ago this small, screaming creature arrived, taking all my time, my energy, my body and claiming them for his own. Aside from screaming, his only form of communication was to bang on my chest, demanding more, more, more. He was insatiable. This was not what I was expecting when I wanted to make my life more interesting.

Now a year later there is a small person who lives with me. He wanders around my house, tearing apart the cupboards and shelves. He seriously examines and investigates all possible uses of every item he finds. He points at the cat and says "cat" as he chases the poor animal around the house. He smiles and laughs and cries and chatters all day long. He adores his dad and can't wait to see him at night. He clings on to our legs and says "up". He charms complete strangers with a smile and a wave.

Even though I have been there every day to watch him grow, it is hard to think of these two creatures as one person. I am sure I will say the same thing at two, and five, and fifteen, and thirty. I will say, "Is this the same child I gave birth to so many years ago? How much he has changed. How much he has remained the same."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Wapati Regional Park

Last night we went to Wapati Regional Park for a Picnic. It is also a Four Seasons Resort and Ski Hill. Ski hill, you ask? In Saskatchewan? Well, this is the way it goes. Hills don't go up from the prarie. They dip down into the prarie. So, you can not see them -- you have to know they are there. Small dips are created by creeks and are surrounded by little groves of trees and shrubs. Larger dips are things like the Wapati Ski Hill, where there is a large river surrounded by trees and shrubs. So, you are driving along and all of a sudden you drop into this valley and there it is. By B.C. standards, it would not be considered a hill, nevermind a ski hill. But since it has all the requisite features of a ski hill -- an incline, snow, runs and a chair lift -- it is a ski hill.

In front of the ski hill there is a nice little penninsula that has been grassed over so that it is a park. There is a corner store, washrooms, hookups for campers, a set of monkey bars, a few picnic tables, and the stage. Yes, I did say the stage. Apparently sometime in the not-so-distant past the Wapati Walleye Competition took place in the lake and they left their mark on the park. They built a small plywood stage, about 10' X 5' with a back wall about 8' tall. On the side you see when you enter the park there are charts posted with the results of said fishing competition. But what is really spectacular is what is on the other side of the wall.

The entire stage and walls are painted yeloow. That's right, bright yellow. And on the back there is the name of the competition, along with what I would describe as the insignia of the Death of Walleye. It is a stylized fish skeleton, complete with wide open mouth, gaping eyes, rib and tail bones.

Just beyond the stage, there is one picnic table on the very edge of the penninsula, looking out on the lake. The lake is very pretty, with trees all around it and of course the famous, luminous Saskatchewan sky. So, the picnic was lovely, from Hubby and Baby's point of view. But I really enjoyed my view of the Death of Walleye. It gave me something to reflect upon -- life cycles, chatch and release vs just catch fishing, if a fish's eye sockets really look like that -- you get the idea.

Well, I had best go tidy up the books my 1 yr old has strewn all over the floor before he trips on them and experiences a minor calamity. TTFN

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hello World!

Okay, so I finally caved and decided to start blogging. You all knew I would do it eventually. What else is a girl whose stuck in the middle of Saskatchewan with a 1 yr old maniac to do during nap time? House work? Ha! Fortunately for y'all I'm actually busy today, so this is it for now.