Monday, December 8, 2014

Language and Words

 "Ju-li-anne." She ticked off the syllables on her fingers. I smiled. I couldn't help it. Our daughter has come so far in the last few years. She's almost not the same child. Confident, enthusiastic, a desire to learn and please (most of the time). She reads a lot and well, and appears to enjoy it.

We understand what she says at least 75% of the time.

When she was three we started to realize she was not developing verbally the way the other kids her age were. At first, and along with many others, we believed she would catch up on her own. By the time she was four, not much changed. We hardly understood anything she said and she would get frustrated to tears.

I booked an appointment for a speech assessment.

After a year and half of wondering and frustration it was confirmed that she indeed had a severe expressive language delay. We switched her to a preschool program that provided the help she needed and this carried on into Kindergarten.

Now she is in grade 1. And her speech has drastically improved. Her expressive language is pretty good though there are still some issues with articulation of certain word sounds. But she's not frustrated. Most people understand her the majority of the time. She still needs speech therapy, which she is getting, but without that support I don't even want to imagine where we might be right now.

Language and communication really starts at birth with those harried squalls in the middle of the night: feed me, change me, hold me, burp me. It is the most important part of any person's development and of the stuff we learn in school, quite possibly more important than math and history and science. If we can't communicate: speak, read, write, little else matters.

Grammarly conducted a study in which they surveyed over 400 freelancers to determine what impact writing skills have on a person's career opportunities and published the results in an infographic (see attached image) which was picked up by The Huffington Post.

I recently had a parent/teacher interview with my daughter's teacher. In that meeting, she pointed out how much my daughter reads, and in a way, seemed to imply that I was pushing her. Maybe too far. I explained that she enjoys reading and I don't force her, but when I thought about it after, maybe I have a little bit. Not to the point that we fight: "you read or you're not getting any supper", but more to the point that I encourage it all the time, partly because I am an avid reader, partly because I want her to be introduced to a lot of words, and see them and hear them, as part of her ongoing speech development. I don't think that's a bad thing. I recognize my child has a delay and I am going to do everything I possibly can to help her and support her. Maybe the teacher gets that, maybe not.

I am most definitely not trying to say I am pushing and preparing already for whatever career she may want in the future. I am only trying to point out how important words and language are and how that nurturing needs to start early.

Reading to learn, reading to inspire creativity and imagination leads to writing and speaking to communicate informally and formally.

It's all connected.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In the Schoolyard

Every morning when I drop off the child at school, I glance around the schoolyard and watch the kids, remembering when I was that age and what school was like. The child plays on the playground with a mix of kids of all ages-from Grade 1-6. I see the kids she talks about, I see other kids who greet her by name, ones I have never heard of and who are older and I realize, she's getting along fine with most everyone.

And then this morning. She's playing on the playground, trying to go up the stairs to get to the slide. A bigger kid blocks her way, not just her, he blocks the way for a bunch of the littler kids saying they can't come up. I watch. Waiting for my child to start crying or burst into tears or pout or throw a tantrum or come running to me, because that's what she usually does. But instead, she turns around, not so much of a grimace on her face and walks up to one of the supervisors who is already surrounded by a bunch of other kids. One of which is already telling on the bigger boy. My child walks away and waits. The supervisor calls the bigger kid off the playground and talks to him. My child darts up the steps to where she wanted to go in the first place. Not phased even one little bit.

I was proud of her for standing up to the boy in the only way she really could, even if someone else beat her to it. And I was happy the school did something about it. Immediately.

I remember bits and pieces of being that age but I moved around so much as a kid it was hard to latch onto any one child that I could really call my friend. That's the thing, right? At that age, friends come and go. One week so and so is your best friend, the next week, not. Something happens. Minor for sure, because what can a 6 year old possibly do that's so horrific you don't want to be friends anymore? (This is my almost 40 year old self talking. To a six year old, whatever it is, is probably really terrible at the time. Like the friend takes the red crayon and my child wanted the red crayon. That's the shit that can end friendships when you're six.)

I see the cliques forming already. Little gaggles of girls running up to one another, hugging, talking about their clothes or shoes, and staring in judgment at those who pass them by, who might not be up to their standards.

Now this is the stuff that worries me. I know there's nothing I can do about it except teach my own child not be like those kids. Not to judge based on what a person wears or how they talk or how they look. Not to exclude someone without a good reason. To embrace those differences because that's what makes us all special. It would be a pretty boring world if we were all the same.

But the godawful truth of it is I can only do so much. I can hope to shape my child into being a good person, but I am only one person and she is only one child. Not all parents care that much and once the kids get on the playground it's out of our hands. We have to just hope and pray that what we have tried to teach them sinks in and that they don't succumb to the pressure of other kids to be something or someone else.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Opinions Are Like Assholes...

I don't usually get involved in menial little arguments. I tend to keep myself coiled in my little bubble and keep my opinion to myself because it seems that anyone who voices how they really feel receives a lot of backlash. 

When did it become okay to attack people because they have an opinion that may differ from ours? Social media (and the internet in general) has given us an outlet of basic anonymity and people are taking advantage of it to be fools and downright rude at times.

A long time ago I made it a practice to not get involved in these stupid arguments that turn to name-calling and utter disrespect for the topic at hand. In fact, I had to stop reading most comments on articles because it made all my emotions roil at one time to the point that I felt like I might explode.

Pro-choicers battle pro-lifers all the time. The debate has been going on for decades. Each side having an opinion. No one is right. No one is wrong. But each hold strong in their convictions. I respect that. 

But this blog post isn't about real debatable issues. It's about the ignorance and arrogance of people saying hateful and disrespectful things because they can and no one can really do anything about it.

The recent one that's really got my panties in a knot regards the recent drowning of a man at Sikome Lake in Calgary. Comments on this piece on The Calgary Herald's Facebook page are blaming the family for being so stupid as to not wear life preservers if they couldn't swim, for taking an infant on the boat. Or they're blaming Sikome Lake for not making the people get off the boat for a) being too full and b) not wearing life preservers or they're blaming Walmart for not making sure the people had adequate water protection when they bought the boat in the first place. One particular comment focuses on "the rules" for water safety and that it's required by law to have life preservers etc and that these people were essentially asking for it for not being protected.

The fact is, yes, the accident was preventable. Yes, there are many things they should have done differently. Yes, the family will now have to forever face the fact that they made a poor judgement call. Yes, a young man is dead. A father. A husband. A brother. A son. Gone because of an accident. 

And it was just that. An accident. Accidents happen every day. There are laws surrounding driving a vehicle. Don't drink and drive. Don't text while driving. Obey the speed limit. Don't run red lights. But who can honestly say they have never broken one of the rules of the road? Laws as they are. Who has made a bad judgement call and gotten away with it? Who has lost a family member because of an accident that was completely preventable if only they had followed the rules?

When did it become the general public's right to attack these people who made a poor decision? What if it was your family member? Would you want to hear and see all these comments reiterating just how STUPID your family member was? From all these self-righteous people who have apparently never made a mistake in their lives. 

This, in my opinion, is akin to bullying. Something that has become even MORE rampant with the introduction of social media. You want to make it stop, then stop doing it.

And then, of course, there is the sadness surrounding the death of Robin Williams and the increased awareness of mental illness and addiction. And, suicide. It seems to me that no one wants to admit the truth. That living just became too much for this great man that he saw no other way out but to end it himself. 

I have chosen to focus on his life and his greatness. I have chosen to believe that mental illness drove him to do such a thing. But as soon as someone asks us to face the truth, that is was suicide, he is attacked and criticized for being uncaring and misunderstanding. While I don't agree with most of what Matt Walsh has said in his article Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice, one line from this whole piece sums up my original reaction to hearing the news. 

"... have we stopped to think how it looks and sounds to those who may be contemplating this heinous deed themselves? Can we tell our friend to step away from the ledge after we just spoke so glowingly of Robin Williams’ newfound “peace” and “freedom”? This is too important a subject to be careless about. We want to say nice things, I realize, but it isn’t nice to lie about suicide."

Matt Walsh has a right to his opinion. Just as we have a right to ours. Some vocalize it. Some don't. But what we don't have the right to do is call Matt Walsh names because he has chosen to state his opinion and we might not agree with it. 

Continue the debate. But debate based on facts that support your argument. 

Like this: Matt Walsh, Robin Williams and how ignorance can lead to unkindness (I also don't totally agree with this article. Having dealt with suicide in my own family, I found nothing offensive about what Matt Walsh said.) 

Stop the name calling. Stop being ignorant bullying brutes who get their kicks from saying horrible things about people who they don't even know.

And even though I don't want to, I will continue to be drawn to the comments section like a housewife drawn to trashy novels. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Research is Necessary, But Watch It...

Stephen King said, “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”

But research is necessary for any story for authenticity sake. Especially if you're writing about a time period you have no first hand experience with.

The current part of my novel that I'm plugging through takes place in 1940's Alberta. I know there are areas that I need to make more authentic for that time period and for the most part I've been able to mark those sections and just carry on writing knowing that I will have to go back, but when I got to a section that required me to have some knowledge of what the inside of a grain elevator looked like, I stalled.

I clicked The Google and started searching for anything that could help. While I got some ideas, it wasn't enough. I knew I had to find one and experience it first hand. But where could I go to get inside one?  And it had to be a really old one.

I started searching ghost towns in Alberta. Found a few. But not all of them have grain elevators and the ones that did, how could I know whether I could get inside them without actually going to look?

I started with Rowley, Alberta. A little town just north of Drumheller. It's easy to find. There's a big sign on the side of the road, on a little hill, reading Rowleywood. 

Needless to say, we found the town (of course I couldn't make a trip like this without backup), and found the grain elevators.

While it was quickly discovered we could not get into the grain elevators, I did learn quite a few things on our little scavenging adventure. 

Grain elevators are impossibly big.

Grain elevators are old. At least these style, made out of good old-fashioned wood.

Grain elevators are a fire hazard (see above) and with the shear number of thunderstorms in Alberta every summer, it's not surprising most of the abandoned ones have been torn down.

You can never be sure what you will find when you go out adventuring. But it's quite likely you'll find something completely out of place. 

And probably a little creepy.

There is so much history to be discovered in Alberta. It's right under our noses and while many are probably aware, there are likely more people who aren't. There are people with stories out there. Stories demanding to be told. 

Despite not getting exactly what I wanted out of the day trip, I did get a lot of photos and I did learn stuff. Knowledge is power, right.

But I didn't get any further in my novel because I still had not seen what the inside of a grain elevator looked like. 

And then...a writer colleague suggested Heritage Park. How silly of me to not even consider what I was looking for was actually right under my nose.

So yesterday, I took the advice and spent the afternoon at Heritage Park. 

I got to go inside a grain elevator.

And I learned even more about grain elevators than I really needed. 

If you've been to Heritage Park you will know that in pretty much every building, there is someone in there to tell you about the building and give you some great Alberta history. 

I learned there are 60 lbs to a bushel.

I learned exactly how a grain elevator works from the farmer dropping off the grain to being loaded onto a train and exported wherever it needs to go.

I learned that it would take a lot of men to do the work of a grain elevator. They would be exhausted.


I learned that the operation of a grain elevator is really not all that complex. It goes in, it goes up, it goes down and it goes up again and out. Pretty simple concept. Of course it has to be weighed and sorted before it goes into the elevator bins and that takes some math, and a scale.

But here's the thing about researching a story. Only a fraction of what you learn in your research will ever make it into the story and in thinking about Stephen King's quote above, that makes perfect sense. You don't want to overwhelm your reader with all your research, you don't need to show them how smart you are.

If you try too hard to please, you won't be trusted.

You only need to create a realistic environment in which your story takes place.

I learned oodles. I didn't need to know how the thing worked, I just needed to see what it looked like so I could continue writing.

My mission was successful. I set out to see the inside of a grain elevator, and I saw the inside of a grain elevator.

And a windmill.

I'll save that for another story.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Blast from the Past


I've always had a fascination with volcanoes though I've never seen one up close unless you count the extinct Mount Boucherie on the west side of Kelowna, which I don't.

However, in a few short days, I will stand in the spot once devastated by the biggest volcanic eruption on mainland North America on May 18, 1980 - I think you know what I'm referring to - and to say I'm excited is an understatement.

I was five when Mount St. Helen's erupted. I don't remember much of it, but I do remember the stories and the ash that fell in Castlegar. Maybe that's where this fascination started.

In Grade 10, one of my English assignments was to write about an event in history as if I had actually been there. Guess what I chose?

I'm rather embarrassed to be posting this, but rest assured, my writing ability has drastically improved since this piece was written. I hope.


As written in 1991, age 16.

DIARY of ROBIN LUNN - The Buildup to the Explosion of Mount St. Helens - May 18, 1980

March 20, 1980

You wouldn't believe what happened tonight. I was sitting in front of the TV when there was a slight earthquake. Everything started shaking. I wasn't sure as to what it was at first, but it was announced on TV. It was measured to be 4.1 on the Richter scale. The news reporter mentioned that the quake was about twenty miles north of Mount St. Helens. 

I can't help thinking, " what if the mountain blows?" I have a right to be really scared considering I only live 5 miles away from the mountain.

March 25, 1980

This is getting scary. There were about 40 earthquakes per hour today. The first one started at about 5:30 this morning. I was just getting up for work when they started. There were about five on my way to work. Traffic was delayed for about an hour because some power lines were down.

At work all the power when out around 10:00 AM and was suspected to be out all day, so everyone was sent home. Since 11:00 AM, when I got home, there have been about sixty earthquakes. Everyone has been advised to stay home until further notice so I guess I won't have to go to work for awhile.

March 27, 1980

Today while I was outside mowing the lawn, Mount St. Helen's exploded. It sent a small plume of ash into the air. The ash came down all around me. I ran to the house for cover.

On the news it said that a small blemish had appeared on the snow capped peak of Mount St. Helens. The crater was about two hundred and fifty feet wide and sixty feet deep.

There have been more eruptions tonight. Each blowing rock and steam into the air. The news said that everyone within a twenty mile radius of Mount St. Helens must evacuate immediately. I guess I will go pack and go to my mom's.

March 28, 1980

I'm at my mom's in California. I arrived late last night. All day long I have been watching the news to see if there's any change in anything. According to the reporter, another crater has appeared on the mountainside. Each little eruption makes those craters bigger.

Mom is scared that if the volcano erupts it will reach her house. I've told her that she's crazy. It would never reach this far. At least I hope not.

March 30, 1980

There was another big eruption today. This one blew ash and steam as far south as Bend, Oregon. 

Six more earthquakes have been detected today. They are said to have reached between 3.3 and 4.4 on the Richter scale. I'm starting to wonder if it's safe to even stay here. I'm trying to keep mom relaxed but it's hard when I'm really scared, too. What's going to happen if the quakes get stronger?

April 1, 1980

The earthquakes are still going heavily. They are between 4.5 to 4.7 on the Richter scale. The news reporters are saying that they think the mountain will erupt. I just hope mom hasn't heart that. She will go insane. She'll say were't going to move somewhere farther away. She worries too much about every little thing.

I admit I'm getting more and more scared every time I hear something about this on the news, but I'm not getting as crazy as Mother. She'll lighten up, I hope.

April 3, 1980

Today's mom's birthday. She's not very happy. I've told her it's supposed to be a happy day but this whole trauma is getting to her. It's worse since she heard about the last earthquake. It was measured at 4.8 on the Richter scale. She even thinks she felt it here. I don't think so. I never felt anything.

There is a lot of company here now. I called a whole bunch of mom's friends and asked them to come over for mom's party. Mom looks a bit happier but I know that she's still worried. So am I.

How will this whole thing turn out?

April 10, 1980

Today we were permitted to return home. We have to sign disclaimers first which stated that we recognized the risks and assumed responsibility for our own safety. Mom didn't want me to go. She practically started crying. She said was safer for me there but I refused. I returned home about 2:00 this afternoon. There was ash everywhere. It was over an inch thick on my front porch.

Mount St. Helens erupted again tonight. It propelled a plume of light steam and ash fifteen thousand feet about sea level. There were many seismic vibrations beneath the volcano. I think that's what they called it. The crater is measured to be more than 320 feet. The crater seemed to be getting gradually larger.

April 13, 1980

Those scientists are crazy. According to the news, a team of scientists flew in by helicopter to observe Mount St. Helens' swelling dome. The reporters were saying that the seismic activity could increase. I don't why the scientists would go up there if there was the chance that the volcano could erupt. The scientists reported that glowing molten rock was moving within the crater. They had seen the molten rock growing into a mound.

April 24, 1980

There have been many eruptions in the past few days but nothing really serious. The scientists went into the crater on foot today. It was the first time in five days. The past days were rainy and cloudy. Really crummy. That's why the scientists couldn't go up any earlier.

Things seem to be settling down for awhile. Maybe for good.

April 30, 1980

Some scientists reported that the growing bulge was the most serious potential hazard posed by current volcanic activity.

Those scientists talk too scientifically. I don't understand anything they really say. I just remember it.

I've moved in with a friend in the city because Governor Ray has said that no one can be withing 10 miles of Mount St. Helens.

May 5, 1980

I'm still staying with my friend. Things are started to get a little worse. At least that's what they say on the news and in the papers.

Scientists have confirmed that molten rock pushing up inside Mount St. Helens was causing the bulge.

May 7, 1980

Today there was another steam and ash eruption. It blew the rock and ash into the air about six miles.

People around here are getting really nervous. Everyone is jumpy and worried. I'm definitely one of them.

I have this feeling that the big day is getting closer. I hope it's not too soon.

May 9, 1980

Last night there was an earthquake of magnitude five. Another earthquake of the same magnitude was registered today.

Today is my birthday. I'm having a small party but nothing major.

The news just said that the USGS abandoned its observation installation at Timberline Camp.

They also mentioned that there was a predicted lava eruption on May 21. That's only two weeks away.

May 12, 1980

Some steam vents were observed along the crater's west rim. A five magnitude quake sit off an ice avalanche. The day is getting closer. I haven't moved from the TV in 24 hours.

May 15, 1980

Forty earthquakes have been recorded today. Quite a few things have been broken here. A lot of power lines are down, too. The lights just came back on a little while ago. I've been busy cleaning up broken glass from all the broken dishes. Even one window was broken.

May 17, 1980

Geologist Dave Johnston was observing the mountain today.

He said, " It could be in hours or even days or even a couple of months. But right now there's a very great hazard due to the fact that the glacier is breaking up on this side of the volcano - the north side. And that could produce a very large avalanche hazard. This is not a good spot to be standing in."

Other people told their stories, too. I wonder when it will blow.

May 18, 1980

It's 8:00AM. I just woke up from a restless night's sleep. I hope this thing happens soon so I can rest easily again.

8:30AM. Only three more days until the predicted explosion. Something going on on the TV. I think Mount St. Helens is going to blow. This is definitely something to remember.


The mountain blew at exactly 8:32AM. The explosion was tremendous. There was first an earthquake that registered 5.1 on the Richter scale. That's what set off the explosion. The black smoke was blown 63,000 feet in the air. It's said that the explosion was heard 200 miles away. Hot gas, ash and huge rocks were hurled into the sky. The blast was estimated to have been five hundred times greater than the 20 kiloton atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

The landscape around the mountain and miles beyond was totally destroyed by the searing hot lava. There were various widespread forest fires. Thankfully the falling ash put most of the fires out.

This was a day I will never forget, as long as I live.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Probably Not a Mermaid

It’s been roughly 15 years since I put on a bathing suit much less actually went swimming, but this past weekend I put it all behind me and jumped into the pool.

I learned a lot of things from these multiple episodes of chlorine-induced fun. Things that I have forgotten in the past 15 plus years or maybe just refused to notice at the time.

1. Swimming is very much like riding a bike. Only wetter.
2. I can actually still swim. I may not be a fast swimmer but can say I’m still a solid swimmer.
3. Swimming is hard work.
4. Even when you hold your breath and jump into a pool water rushes up your nose and your sinuses feel like they’re going to explode.
5. Diving can make your boobs fall out of your bathing suit.
6. Swimming works different muscle groups and you can actually still be sore afterwards.
7. Being dunked underwater is scary shit even if you’re saved immediately thereafter.
8. Don’t open your eyes. It burns.
9. Chlorine dries out your skin.
10. I can doggy paddle like nobody’s business. Michael Phelps may well have met his match. (ok, maybe not, but I did beat my husband in our personal doggy paddle Olympics)
11. Even though they say swimming is easier on your joints, my knee hurt worse after than it has in months.
12. Swimming is still a lot of fun. I missed it.

I will likely never be, nor have I been in a previous life, a mermaid. But the feeling of water over your skin as you glide through the water is freedom.

Until you reach the edge of the pool and have to turn around and go back to the other end.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

There Was Something In His Eyes

I am not prone to random acts of kindness. Not because I don't want to, but I just don't think about it at the time. Like on the rare occasion that someone ahead of me in the Timmy's line up buys my coffee. I don't think to pay it forward (or backward) to the person behind me. And then I kick myself later.

I do hold doors for people most of the time but that's more of a proper etiquette type of thing.

Today I almost let a moment slip by. It's so easy to see an opportunity to help someone and in the next instant think, oh well, someone else will do it.

But here's what happened this afternoon.

I'm sitting at a traffic light, on my way to pick up the kidlet from school. I was in the middle lane waiting to make a left hand turn, there was traffic on all sides of me. A man steps out into the middle of the traffic and walks slowly, glancing slowly back and forth, certainly trying to make eye contact with someone, anyone. He's holding a sign that I didn't need to read to understand what he was doing. His face and clothes said it all. Long straggly hair, unkempt beard and mustache, a dirty tattered ball cap, two sizes two large clothes.

As he approached my vehicle on the passenger side, I reread the handwritten in black marker sign, clutched in his tired hands: I'm homeless. Hungry. Please help. God Bless. 

I almost turn away. Be one of those people who pretends something is not there if you just don't look at it. But I couldn't. I was inexplicably drawn to this man.

It was something in his eyes as our gazes caught each other. A sadness? A desperation? I can't exactly say and will probably never know.

Before I could register that I had money in my wallet and could easily roll down the window and hand it to him (the money, not the wallet), the traffic light changed and he hurried out of the way of passing motorists to his bike with a carrier strapped onto the back, probably holding everything he held dear to him.

I carried on to where I was going but the whole way I couldn't shake the overwhelming feeling that this time I had to go out of my way to do something nice for someone else.

I picked up the kid and started home. Without even thinking, instead of heading straight home, I went back to the intersection where I had seen him. But the man was gone. I drove down the road a ways to see if he'd headed east. I couldn't imagine he got too far so when I didn't see him after a couple of blocks I turned around. Next I drove down by the c-train station, scanning the side of the road and parking lots the best I could without running into anything. Still nothing.

Well. I tried, I thought as I headed for home.

As I was approaching my community, suddenly there he was. Riding his bike with as much energy as he could muster.

I slowed as I passed him but there was no safe place for me to stop. I got stopped at another set of lights and watched in my mirrors for him to get closer, finger ready to roll down the window. But he was tired. A little slow on his old BMX looking bike, certainly few gears and the added weight of the carrier behind it.
I could see him getting closer, pedaling through the grass instead of the sidewalk. And then he stopped. And the light changed.

At least I knew where he was. I pulled into the shopping plaza and parked where I had a good view of the street and the intersection. If he came through the lights and down the hill, he had to pass me. I would catch him.

But what do you think he did?

That's right. He walked up and down the lines of stopped traffic with his sign. Through about four lights. And they are long lights. But I was patient.

Finally, I see him coming down the hill. I grab $20 from my wallet and get out of the car. He pulled into the parking lot I was sitting in. I called him over and explained I had seen him earlier and wanted to give him something.

He God Blessed Me several times, and at one point I almost thought he was going to hug me, then I got back in the car and watched him ride across the parking lot.

I don't know what he was going to do with the money, and I don't much care. The appreciation I saw in his face in that moment was enough for me.

Others may have given him money, many probably turned there heads and pretended he wasn't there, but for once, I didn't assume someone else would do it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

These Feet - A Mini Photo Project

I've never done a photo project. In fact, I've never set out with the idea of taking pictures of a particular thing.

In this course I'm taking it's not really an assignment but more of a suggestion to create a photo project. I guess just like in writing, to keep you going.

So over the past several weeks I have been collecting various photos with a project in mind. I wasn't really ready to post it, but I was reminded this week that I hadn't posted anything on here in quite some time.

These Feet...

...were made for surviving.

...were made for playing.

...were made for walking.

...were made for talking.

...were made for listening.

...were made for working.

...were made for relaxing.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Is it spring yet?

It feels unimaginable. Impossible that spring could be right around the corner. It's cold. Not sub-arctic cold but still cold. And it's been snowing pretty much since the official first day of spring. 

Oh lovely Calgary. How we love thee and your adolescent mood swings.

People are down. Frustrated that spring can't just hurry up and get here already because quite frankly, we've had enough of winter. It's been long. There's been snow. There's been cold. And we're done.

Yesterday, we wake up to snow, snow and more snow. By mid-afternoon, on a bipolar high, the weather changed. Blue sky tried to squeak through the white above. And holy lordy, snow started to melt. And quickly. 

It dripped off the roof like the rain in a thunderstorm.


The tree branches bend under the weight of the ice now curled around it's fingers. A moment of suspended animation.

The tease of spring was just that. A tease. Within an hour the temperature dropped again and no more snow melt. 

Only icicles remain as a reminder of almost spring.

But when the sun hits those icicles at just the right angle, it's a sparkling reminder of just how beautiful every season can be. The magic of nature, and the things it creates. 

I've taken a lot of winter pictures this year AND I hear spring will be here next week.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Not What I Expected to Write This Morning

Little specks of diamonds twinkle off the snow surrounding you with the beauty that can be winter. This was the first day of the new year, with the sun shining, walking through Fish Creek Park on the way to a nice little tobogganing hill for the little one.

It's easy to get bummed out in the winter. Cloudy days, temperatures plummeting into the absurd, road travel becoming near impossible. But then there is this. Tucked away for anyone to see if they want to.

It probably wasn't the easiest holiday season for me. After discovering a tubal pregnancy at the beginning of December, long evenings and mornings spent waiting in emergency, a dose of chemo drugs to dissolve the pregnancy, it was easy to want to curl up and do nothing for a long time. Not to mention, nearly the only thing I could do. Anyone who has experienced chemo drugs will understand just how much it takes out of you. I was fortunate that I only had to get one dose. As one of my Facebook friends said, "It's the chemical equivalent of being hit in the head with a 2x4." She was not kidding. You might want to get up and do something, but your body tells you otherwise. The tiredness that comes hits you so hard and so suddenly, it takes everything in you to just get up off the couch and walk to the bathroom. And dizzy. Nearly all the time. Sitting. Standing. Lying down. It doesn't matter. A sudden move, or no move at all, could send you to something that feels much like trying to sleep after a night of over-drinking.

Fortunately, my HCG levels have come down quickly. Dropping by half in the first week after the injection. And slowly, very slowly, I began to feel more like myself, only slightly dizzy. More blood tests, which I have to continue until hormone levels reach zero. (Last update from this past week, levels are at 182. Dropping great, but not quite gone. Another blood test this week and fingers crossed, that's it.)

The holidays were good. Filled with laughter and love from friends and family. But you know, there's this little voice inside you sometimes reminding you that, "hey, you lost a baby." In many ways it really was a relief. But it still doesn't change the fact that there was the beginnings of a tiny human trying to grow and become a bigger human, but nature wouldn't allow it. It doesn't hurt. I'm not mentally or emotionally unstable over it, but I am saddened, even though the thought of starting over again with a baby, to a toddler, and so on, made my stomach wrap up in knots. Not to say I wouldn't have loved it as much. But sometimes, when you work so hard to get to a point in your life, make goals, reach goals, and then something unexpected threatens to deter you from those goals, it makes you feel just a little bit out of control. I don't like feeling out of control.

Like when we got to the sledding hill.

I haven't been on a sled or anything that will send me screaming down at hill at uncontrollable speeds since I was a child. (unless you count snowshoeing last winter and falling on my butt in slippery snow pants. Fortunately, the creek at the bottom was frozen solid.) And I had no intention of doing it again. But after several runs with the child on her own, she walks up the hill and says, "Mommy, you want a try?" My first instinct was to say no, thank you. But there was something in those little eyes that said I better give it a shot.

I climbed on the little sled. She decided she would come with me. And there we went. Sliding down a hill. Her squealing in enjoyment, me clenching my teeth praying we don't tip over.

Well, we didn't tip over.

But we swerved slightly and hit a bush.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

First Book of 2014

My first book of 2014. Quite possibly the best book I have ever read. As someone who is fascinated and mortified by the atrocities of WWII, I am always trying to glean something from any story I read about that time. Whether it's an understanding or an added loathing. I like to see the varying points of view, no matter how difficult they may be.

This story certainly held many of those moments. I'm not going to give it a review, because, well, anyone who has read it probably already knows how fantastic this book is, and anyone else, should probably just read it to judge for themselves.

And if you read it and didn't like it, well, I have no words to say to that.

What I do want to point out is the incredible writing in this book. Whether the fabulous use of language came direct from the author or had some help from the editors at Knopf, it doesn't much matter. The language is breath-taking. Heart-rending. Powerful.

I've read much of concentration camps in Europe. I've visited one of the deportation camps in the Netherlands. I get choked up thinking about the things these poor souls endured. But I have never considered it in the way the author lays it out. One section that will always remain with me, I had to stop and reread many times simply because I couldn't believe how well it was written and how much emotion it invoked in a somewhat subtle yet direct way.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak 

Death's Diary: The Parisians

Summer came.
For the book thief, everything was going nicely.
For me, the sky was the color of Jews.

When their bodies had finished scouring the gaps in the door, their souls rose up. When their fingernails had scratched at the wood and in some cases were nailed into it by the sheer force of desperation, their spirits came toward me, into my arms, and we climbed out of those shower facilities, onto the roof and up, into eternity's certain breadth. They just kept feeding me. Minute after minute. Shower after shower. (pg. 349)

Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear.

I took them all away, and if ever there was a time I needed distraction, this was it. In complete desolation, I looked at the world above. I watched the sky as it turned from silver to gray to the color of rain. Even the clouds were trying to get away.

Sometimes I imagined how everything looked above those clouds, knowing without question that the sun was blond, and the endless atmosphere was a giant blue eye. (pg. 350)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year. New Beginnings...A Do Over

As I've said before, I don't do resolutions. Like most people, I don't like to fail and to set out a list of resolutions for the coming year is nothing more than setting oneself up for the inevitable. There are many things I would like to do. Some will happen, many won't. It's about picking and choosing what's more important.

2013 was full of various ups and downs. I made mistakes. Learned from them and now am moving on. But there was good stuff too. Mostly on the publishing side of my life. Nothing significant stands out. Moderate goodness for the passing year. Hopefully even better for the coming year.

I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year. Hope all your dreams come true, or moderately close. Work hard. Stay true to yourself. And just be happy.