I'm thrilled to be "Guest Blogger" on Mary DeMuth's blog today - one of my most favoritist authors!
Friday, May 27, 2011
Okay, saying these words out loud sticks in my craw. Writing them makes my fingers tremble. But here goes.
This week, I became the mother of a 30-year old.
He's a little weirded out by it, but if he thinks turning 30 is freaky, just wait until his own kid turns 30. I'm thrilled that he and his beautiful bride of six years (who is possibly turning the same age in the same week, but a lady never tells) got to take a trip to celebrate this milestone. The two of them have managed to produce the two most adorable little boys on the planet, so they deserve a get-away. But it means I'm not around to remind them that Bill Gates had made $234 million by age 30 or that the average age of retirement for NFL players is, you guessed it, 30.
Have you noticed it seems to take about ten years to get used to how old you are? I don't remember turning 30 myself, although I suppose I must have, since I recall turning 40 and 50. Mark Twain said "When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it."
Remembering things that never happened can be an enormous gift for an aspiring writer, so I look forward to this aspect of aging. Perhaps my writing career will take off, provided I can commit to software whatever comes to mind before they take away my laptop for good. Meanwhile, I want to gift my son with some favorite quotes to honour his big day.
Leo Rosenberg said "First you forget names, then you forget faces, then you forget to pull your zipper up, then you forget to pull your zipper down." (Oh dear.)
Erma Bombeck said, "As a graduate of the Zsa Zsa Gabor School of Creative mathematics, I honestly do not know how old I am." (I like that kind of creativity!)
Bennett Cerf said "Middle age is when your classmates are so gray and wrinkled and bald they don't recognize you." (Poor things.)
And finally, Kurt Vonnegut said "True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country." (It's true.)
So to set an example for my senescent son, I refuse to let aging get me down. For one thing, it's too hard to get back up again. For another thing, in dog years, I'm already dead. So I'm actually doing quite well. It's all in your perspective. And I perceive that others have done this, therefore so can I! And so can my kids. I take comfort in knowing that as we age, the gap between my children and me gets smaller, relative to our life spans. See what you have to look forward to, guys?
Thursday, May 26, 2011
I couldn't believe the little gift my boss presented me with this morning, a grin on his face reaching both ears. Sure was good for a laugh! He said he saw it and couldn't resist. Made my day! Too funny. And I do have a definite weakness for chocolate.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
(Serves one14-Branch Family)
Step One. Two years prior, two branches of the 14-branch family agree to get together to share their "turn" at planning the biannual event, and then promptly forget about it for almost two years. Although there are ten siblings/cousins in this combined branch, it falls on five who live in the vicinity to make the arrangements. We'll call these five the Teacher, the Caterer, the Left-Handed One, the Writer, and the Beautiful One.
Step Two: The youngest of these five, the Beautiful One, initiates the first planning meeting at the insistence of the older generation who are beginning to panic. When the appointed day arrives, however, neither the weather nor the general health of the others cooperates and the meeting is postponed. Meanwhile, one entire branch goes off to Maui for a wonderful 9-day family reunion of its own. The Teacher goes to Guatemala on an English-teaching stint for a month. The remaining one, The Writer, stoically stays home to suffer the ravages of Manitoba in March. The Writer is not bitter.
Step Three: A new date is set for the planning meeting. The older generation is now in full-blown panic mode. So the five cousins/sisters converge on the home of the Beautiful One.
Step Four: The five cousins/sisters proceed to catch up with one another's lives. Photos from Maui are passed around, hilarious and heartwarming stories are shared involving lost teeth and long lost family members. Numbers and ages of grandchildren are exchanged. Clearly, the reunion planning meeting is a reunion in itself. The Left-Handed One takes charge and keeps drawing us back to our purpose.
Step Five: A sixth cousin/sister who has agreed to be available by telephone is called. She has not kept her word, however, so a smart-alecky message is left on her answering machine putting her in charge of pretty much everything. The laughter she hears in the background will put her at ease. We hope.
Step Six: Plans forge ahead. The Beautiful One calls the campground, digs through the box labeled "Family Reunion" and counts the money in the event kitty.
Step Seven: The Caterer volunteers to organize the wiener roast and bring a large canopy tent.
Step Eight: The Teacher agrees to make phone calls and get the word out; she will also organize a photo-print run on the day of the reunion.
Step Nine: The Writer offers to organize the silent auction, which provides funds for the next reunion.
Step Ten: The Left-Handed one has a great idea to release helium balloons in memory of those who have passed. She will organize this.
Step Eleven: A couple of phone calls are made to the older generation to set their minds at ease. The reunion will happen after all.
Step Twelve: The Writer takes it upon herself to blog about the planning meeting experience because you never know when it might be helpful for others.
And that, friends, is how it's done. Good luck with yours!
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Oh, I know there's no such thing. There's laziness and procrastination and self-doubt and procrastination and distraction and lack of direction and procrastination, maybe. But it all boils down to the same thing, and the only cure is to park your butt in the chair and start putting words down, one after the other. So what if it's crap? Eventually some little jewel will surface that may turn out to be useful and if not, it's all about exercising your muscle. Use it or lose it and all that.
Today, it's also about another thing. A growing, niggling sense that maybe it's time I started writing about something I don't feel ready to write about. Really, God? But what if this and what if that? What if I'm wrong? I need some guidance. And courage and wisdom and skills I really don't have.
And while I wait...I think I'll go see what delights I can create for tonight's supper.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
|Here's me - on the inside.|
Today when I came home at lunch, I found out I got an A in my Municipal Law course! Then I checked email and learned that I placed third in the "best columnist" category in the Manitoba Community Newspapers Association awards (don't ask me what this means...I didn't even know I was nominated, but doesn't it sound important?) And just in case all that's not enough, when I got home from work, there was a bag of clothes waiting for me from friend Julianne!!
If I weren't sick and exhausted, I'd definitely celebrate...
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Well, it's official. I'm out of my mind. I know this because when asked to take on a speaking engagement the same day I was writing a three-hour exam, I said yes. But in my defense, you probably would have, too. Let me explain.
The group to which I'd be speaking was made up of school teachers. "Let's make sure I have this straight," I said. "There will be 40 or 50 teachers, expected to sit down and be quiet and listen while I talk?"
Well, who could resist?
So talk I did. I told them of my almost 80-year old mother, who quit school after Grade 9, got married, had five children, then continued her education until she could teach school, eventually earned two degrees and became a high school principal.
I told them how disillusioned and heartbroken I was when I learned my beloved first grade teacher, Mrs. Cooper, got paid to teach us and wasn't doing it just out of love.
I told how my two older sisters became teachers as well, how one of them was my Grade 5 teacher and how it was assumed I'd become a teacher too.
I told them of my pseudo-teaching opportunities that elevated teachers to my highest regard and convinced me I had NOT missed my calling.
We talked about the pursuit of dreams and using the gifts your Creator gave you and jazz like that. There's so much more I could have said. So today, with six weeks or so left in the school year, I offer to all teachers everywhere what I hope will be a little shot in the arm to see you through until the end of June.
I try to imagine where I would be today without you, Teacher. Reading and writing alone, these most precious of gifts, are more than enough to create a debt of gratitude. Through the written words of others I have seen parts of the world I'll never see with my eyes, been encouraged to pursue my dreams, and gained understanding for life and eternity. Through words I have written, others have found hope, laughter, encouragement, and sometimes a role on stage! None of this would be true without the miracle of education.
Without what you taught me, how would I balance my bank statement or pay my bills? Obtain a driver's license, a mortgage, a job? How would I know where my daughter is when she flies off to Europe or appreciate the rich history of our planet when I see a movie like The King's Speech?
More than all of that, though, I want to thank you for the tenacity and genuine care with which you serve your students. Tom Brokaw said, "It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference."
If you are a teacher who makes winners of ordinary people, who believes in your students and tugs or pushes in turn, I applaud you. Your influence goes farther than you know. Don't take it lightly.
And hang in there. Summer's coming.
Friday, May 13, 2011
This afternoon I'm off to the ACT Festival weekend in Winkler.
"ACT" is the Association of Community Theatre in Manitoba. Groups from all around the province gather annually to perform short plays, to be critiqued and workshopped with professionals, and to enjoy one another's company. This year's theme, given the proximity to Mother's Day, is "Mother of All ACT Festivals."
At the Saturday night banquet and dance, you're supposed to wear something your mother gave you. Hopefully no one shows up in their birthday suit.
I'll be wearing a red dress.
In 2005, when my mother was wintering in Texas, she picked up two pretty dresses for me at a place called The Dress Barn. Twenty-five bucks each. She knew I'd be needing dresses since we had two weddings and a graduation, each of our three kids vying for who could be in the spotlight that year or something. Mom wouldn't have been offended if I hadn't liked the dresses, but I did. I wore the red one to Nate's wedding and the black printed one to both Reuben's grad and Mindy's wedding. This is either a testament to my mother's good taste or to my lack thereof. I like to think it's the former.
So this dress works for the festival banquet on so many levels: it's a gift from my mother AND it's my mother-of-the-groom dress. Oh, and one more detail: I'll be wearing it on my son and daughter-in-law's anniversary. Six years to the day. Happy Anniversary, kids!
Friday, May 6, 2011
It was 2008 and I was sitting in a gynecologist's waiting room awaiting a pre-op appointment. As I looked around the sweltering, packed little room, it dawned on me that every person in there was facing some sort of traumatic, life-changing situation. There were women who were pregnant, women who were hoping to be pregnant, and women who had just finished being pregnant and were adapting to life as exhausted new mothers. Others were probably desperately hoping to NOT be pregnant, ever. There were people like me, facing scary surgery. And then there were a few scattered and uncomfortable men, the guys who loved and supported these women.
It occurred to me that all of these folks, whether they acknowledged it or not, could use in their lives some sort of higher power. The seed was planted in my little brain for a play.
And that's how it came about, three years later, that the Prairie Players will be presenting First Church of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the annual ACT Festival in Winkler's PW Enns Centennial Concert Hall, May 13-15. The play is only 15 minutes long, but it's a great fit for the weekend's theme, "Mother of All ACT Festivals."
You know what they say about mama bears. Get between her and her cub and she'll bite right through you. That's what moms are like. Don't mess with their babies. Writing and directing a play and then throwing it onto a stage for the world to see and critique feels much like putting your baby on display and giving others free rein to call it the ugliest child they ever laid eyes on. At some point in the rehearsal process, your baby is turning into an awkward adolescent and you inevitably find yourself thinking "who wrote this cheesy piece of crap?" But of course, no one else is allowed to say that. Then it all starts to come together and turns into something you're proud to call your offspring.
It's been my privilege to work with talented local actors Vicki Hooke, Kevin Hamm, Melissa Draycott, Ember Rodgers, Natasha Klassen, Barb Knott, Terry Tully, Liz Driedger, Danica Turcotte, and with our technical helper Chris Kitchen. If you'd like to see this play, the public is welcome at any of the festival performances in Winkler. Check out the host group's website for more information: www.flatlandstheatre.com. Our performance will be Sunday, May 15, at 10:45 a.m.
Or, if you really can't make it to Winkler, you could check out our dress rehearsal at the William Glesby Centre on Tuesday, May 10, at 8:00 p.m. Admission is free. Use the backstage (green) door. It's 15 minutes of your life you'll never get back. We're hoping you'll consider them well spent.
Happy Mother's Day!
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Well, that was interesting.
I needed to go to the library today to reimburse LaDenna for the cost of sending my exam back to the university earlier this week. It was such a gorgeous day, I thought about walking but wasn't sure I wanted to use that much time for such a simple errand. When Jon came home for lunch, he suggested I catch a ride back uptown with him and then walk home. So I did.
I decided to stop at the florist to get a thank-you flower for LaDenna, then walked to the library only to find out she was away but would be returning. So, I found a Lynn Austin book I hadn't read yet and made myself comfortable.
Half an hour later when I checked back at the counter, LaDenna had returned. But by the time we finished our exchange, it was pouring outside! Now what?
I don't usually do this well when my little agendas get messed up, but there are far worse places to be stranded than the library. So I surrendered to it and sat back down with my novel. I was beginning to think a hot cup of tea would make things perfect.
Half an hour later, the rain let up and I started off, hopping over puddles. By the time I finished my banking and post office errands, the sun was out again. It stayed out, warm and bright, the entire walk home along our gorgeous lakeside walking path.
The whole thing took longer than it would have had I walked both ways. However, had I walked both ways...or had LaDenna been there when I first arrived...or had I not thought to stop for the flower...I surely would have been caught in the downpour on my walk home.
So there you have it. I got my exercise, LaDenna got her money and a flower, and I got home safe and dry with a wonderful novel I hadn't planned to pick up. The name of the book? A Light to My Path.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Thank You to those who prayed for me yesterday! As I wrote the Municipal Law exam, I became aware of God's nudges, bringing to mind things I had studied but would never have recalled on my own. I'm just not that smart. And being able to sit in a room all alone (as opposed to a classroom full of test-takers) is awesome for someone like me who finds it helpful to read the questions aloud and talk to myself. Pretty sure I passed. Thanks to LaDenna at our local library for invigilating.
Then I was off to McKenzie United Church where 47 teachers and retired teachers from around the province were assembled for their annual sorority conference. I got there early enough to enjoy the musicians scheduled to perform after lunch, a male/female duet with vocals, piano and guitar. Folksy, easy kind of music from the Beatles and some Canadian composers as well. One song they did was Hawksley Workman's "You're Safe and Sound with Me," and I smiled at the repeating hook line, choosing to take the song as Jesus singing those words to me and calming my nerves before I got up to speak. Safe and Sound.
The audience was great. I didn't have to whack anyone with a ruler. They listened, they laughed in most of the right places, and I saw quite a few wiping tears away too. I appreciate teachers more than I can say and will write about that one day soon.
In the evening, Jon and I went on a weird date, taking both vehicles because only one of us wanted to see the play. We had a delicious supper at Sticky Bill's, then parted ways. By then the storm was in full force, but the show must go on and the Prairie Players did a remarkable job presenting David's Mother to an impressively-sized audience given the weather. Well done, everyone!
Not being able to get into the driver's side door of my car because it was iced up, having to scrape ice and snow off the windshield, sliding around on the drive home, and then getting stuck in the drifts in our driveway were the perfect ending to my big day. Home safe and sound.