Friday, 30 March 2007

Birthday preps

It is Missy Mopps' third birthday tomorrow. I think Mister has been more excited about it than she. For the past ten days he has been asking how many more sleeps until her birthday. I showed him the things we were going to give her and he can hardly wait to share her toys.

Beside the previously mentioned doll, she is getting some Littlest Pet Shop stuff - both of them love these little toys and make up all kinds of scenarios with them, so I am happy to encourage that type of play.

Traditionally, in our family, we have a birthday cake at home with our evening meal, but take the birthday person out for lunch. Missy Mopps couldn't decide if she wanted a cake with Dora the Explorer on it or a picture of a panda (her favourite animal) - she settled on Dora. We haven't chosen a venue for Missy Mopps yet - oops - but she has chosen her outfit!

As a special treat I took her to The Children's Place, and let her pick out a birthday outfit. This is what she chose. The dress is very pretty. She has good taste ;) We agreed on a pink bolero cardigan to match, because, well.... it is still a little chilly for a strappy summer dress and was sooooo darn cute! There.... I have had my girly gush for the year.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Friday Feasting

Appetizer
What are you proud of?

In 2001, I wrote a thesis challenging Australian refugee laws against those dubbed "illegal entrants". I interviewed male Iraqi refugees about their lives; particularly the conditions they endured while detained in Australian detention centres, and the impact visa restrictions were having upon their lives.

I was happy with the way the thesis turned out. I was relieved that I got a good mark, but I am proudest that I respected those men; won and retained their trust. I am proud that I was able to give them a voice and their story was able to be told. I am proud that I kept my word to them and never let them down in honouring their truths, and their pain. To me, that was the most important thing - conducting myself with integrity.


Soup
What is the best thing you’ve ever won as a prize?

Ironically, in my last post I had mentioned that I had never won anything worthy boasting about, in my life.... sad but true. I wish I had something...anything...that would allow me a more in depth answer, but this tank is empty. Perhaps read the previous post, if you are desperate ;)

Salad
Name something you do that is a waste of time.

Like a lot of people, I surf the net. The time goes in a flash - it is almost criminal.

Main Course
In what year of your life did you change the most?

I can actually think of several.
2002, when I had my first child, but really it was a process that took several years for change to fully take over.
Then perhaps 1996, the year I started university. I started university late - aged twenty-two. That year spelt the beginning of an intellectual explosion for me, which lasted eight years.

But I think 1991, was perhaps the most pronounced year of change. I had just turned seventeen when I left home. I went to the city and lived in a "boarding house". This was a place where your rent covered all your household expenses; meals, however basic, were also provided. I lived in that place with 18 men and one other woman, with whom I shared a room with for the first 3 months, before she lost her job and moved out, leaving me with a handful of bizarre woman as room mates - women, who thankfully, only stayed for a week or two. I was there for 10 months in total.

The men in that place were interesting to say the least. The majority were releases from one of the city's psychiatric hospitals. The others were lonely old men who had no one in their lives who cared for them - which was so sad. There were a couple were ex-cons, drug addicts, and one mysterious guy who had fled from another state, riding his motor bike during the night and sleeping under overpass bridges. Upon arrival, he quickly changed his legal name - he wouldn't discuss why.

I saw some troubling things while there, namely various examples of the troubled human. I remember a friend visited me while I lived there. She thought the place and the people were amusing, and in a way, she was right. I remember, we laughed about the everyday scene presented before us on that day; it was like, can you believe what you are seeing, and can you believe I actually live here? But then I also remember she, who still lived with her parents, worked full-time, and was saving all her money while her family took care of her, began talking about a party she went to the weekend before, and how she had gotten drunk and spent $50 on alcohol. This was apparently, a normal occurrence. I remember feeling shocked at that, and a little disgusted. $50 would have been a big chunk out of my "after board" pay packet. I couldn't afford to fritter my earnings away like that - I had to live. And I remember sitting there listening to her, feeling envious of her lack of responsibilities and also a sense of loss, because I suddenly realised that I no longer had a single thing in common with my very good friend. We had been separated for perhaps three months, but as we sat side by side, I became aware that I was not a kid anymore.

Dessert
Where is a place you consider to be very tranquil?

I love nature, and I love to wander in treed areas at every possible opportunity.
In Australia, we lived in an area that backed onto a Gorge - it was literally a street away, and I loved to sit on a grassy hill top and watch the birds fly in an out of an old gum at the bottom of the hill - it was my spot, and it was pretty much a secret place, since I rarely saw another person down there, and I lived in that area nine years.

Over here in Canada, I love Deep Cove, with its snow capped mountains sinking into water, "The Arms Reach Bistro" over looking the sleepy cove; sipping a latte beside the water- beautiful.
Horseshoe Bay: watching the ferries gliding in and out of the bay, mist caressing the cliff side and hovering about the nearby isles - a gorgeous spot.
Boundary Bay dyke walk - the bird life is amazing, and the Bay is delightful, a natural coastline, not at all commercial - never fails to inspire. I just love it there.

Warning: confused ravings and thoughts out loud

Pussy Cat Pussy Cat
Where have you been?
I've been to London
To Visit the Queen

Pussy Cat Pussy Cat
What did you there?
I frightened a little mouse
Under her chair

Like the Pussy Cat in this well known nursery rhyme, I am in a bit of a rut as to looking at my own small predictable world, and not considering possibility, or even risk.

For a start, and I am sure I am not alone when I say that being a full-time Mum I struggle for any kind of quality time to myself, mainly thinking time. I actually feel guilty about allocating time to my interests and needs. Silly I know, and I am sure many will scold me for not taking time for myself, I know the break will make me a better Mum in the daily scheme of things; not so snappy and frustrated, but I still struggle with the idea, and will not allow myself time to chill. It is like I feel unentitled and selfish for thinking of my own needs, and since it has been this way for the past 5 years, I wouldn't even know what to do with myself, even if I did have a spare hour or two.

Recently a friend offered to have both of my kids for a couple of hours, to "give me a break". I couldn't do it. I didn't want to burden this friend with "my responsibilities", and honestly, the thought of coming up with something to do during that time, put me in an absolutely state of panic. I SERIOUSLY need to get a life!

I think the worst part of this state of being, is that I have lost the ability to identify the many things that are important to me, beyond the everyday distractions of housework, home maintenance, grocery shopping and bill paying.

Last night at Toastmasters, I was asked the $30 million question - literally. What would be the first thing I would do, if I happened to win the $30 million jackpot? All I had to do was talk for 1-2 minutes on this question, but I struggled; basically I spluttered, bumbled, ummed and erred. Seriously, it was just as painful for the listeners as it was for me, but apart from paying off my house and university bills, I was absolutely clueless - the idea of an excessive and life-altering amount of money was totally unfathomable to me - the freedom, the choices, the social good it could do..... Where do I start? I thought, and then I realised that I didn't have one single idea, and quickly and silently concluded that I would rather not be burdened with such a weighty win-fall - give it to someone else. Is this really my message to the universe?

Ironically, I was also asked to talk about a prize I had won....in all honesty, I have never won anything before. Hmmm, I guess I have answered my own question, but then again, I mostly sabotage any chance of winning, by rarely placing myself in the running - You gotta be in it to win it, as they say. I am not really the gambling kind, as you can probably tell. Most of my inner thoughts about the future are preluded with the word When, and that basically puts an abrupt halt to any future thoughts and plans.

I am not feeling very settled right now, when I am settled, perhaps I can give the future more thought. When the kids go to school, I will think about what I want to do with my life. When I am rid of my debts I can to this or that....

This course of thinking reminds me of the fable "As Famous as the Moon", pg 18 from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche:

A very poor man, after a great deal of hard work, had managed to accumulate a whole sack of grain. He was proud of himself, and when he got home he strung the bag up with a rope from one of the rafters of his house to keep it safe from rats and thieves. He left it hanging there, and settled down underneath it for the night as an added precaution. Lying there, his mind began to wander" "If I can sell this grain in small quantities, that will make the biggest profit. With that I can buy some more grain, and do the same again, and before too long I'll become rich, and I'll be someone to reckon within the community. Plenty of girls will be after me. I'll marry a beautiful woman and before too long we'll have a child...it will have to be a son...what on earth are we going to call him? Looking round the room, his gaze fell upon the little window, through which he could see the moon rising. "What a sign!" he thought. "How auspicious! That is a really good name. I'll call him "As famous as the Moon"...." Now while he had been carried away in his speculation, a rat had found its way up to the sack of grain an chewed through the rope. At this very moment the words "As Famous as the Moon" issues from his lips, the bag of grain dropped from the ceiling and killed him, instantly. "As Famous as the Moon", of course, was never born.

So there you go...Man, I just flicked through this book. It is really a fabulous, mind-altering read, but I have never managed to get past page 113. I simply have to try this book again. It is not so much of a struggle, it is just that I need to put it down regularly, to contemplate what I have just read.

Anyway, I shall think some more about the $30 million dollar question and get back to you on that one, and of course, most of the time, these things don't even need $30 million to accomplish.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

When the world stops spinning

A friend called yesterday; I mind her little boy on Wednesday mornings.
"How was your spring break?" I casually and innocently asked.
"Well...", she begins, "you have NO IDEA what we have been through", she says with a sigh of exhaustion.

What! Surely nothing worse than the events of the previous 6 months.

Seriously, this poor woman has run the entirety of fate's sinister gauntlet. Everything that could turn pear shaped and complicated in a persons life, seems to have in hers. I simply have to shake my head in wonder and think, "what is going on here?" She is just having the worst possible time at the moment.

She is going through a divorce. She is raising three kids, aged 2-7 years in a tiny two bed apartment. She studies full-time. She works part time four days a week. The secondhand car she bought broke down a week after she bought it, costing her $1500 to fix - money she didn't have. Her 19 year old cousin died in a vehicle accident, then her brother died in a logging accident. She has had to work with all sorts of obstacles, so many that I think I would be a nervous wreck at this stage of the game, if I were her. "So", I think "what has happened NOW!"

"Boyd was in the hospital for the first 5 days of spring break"
"What the hell happened?" I asked, I had just seen him earlier in the day, with his Dad.
"Well, the doctors thought he had leukemia".
WHAT! I was absolutely floored - stunned.
She then went on to tell me about their five day horror of an ordeal; fearing the worst; being told, by doctors, to prepare for the worst. She told me how scared she was, and how heart breaking it was to have her son transferred to the oncology department; to see all those weak and terribly sick little children. She told me that Boyd was traumatised by the daily taking of blood, screaming for a half hour, after the fact, on the first day and then by the fifth, screaming for mercy and crying for the nurse to get it over with, quickly, and that he was moments away from receiving a blood transfusion, since his platelets had dropped to 30. When I asked how he coped with his ordeal, she said that he had woken nightly, screaming in terror. Poor little guy.

He is such a lovely boy - large gentle doe-like eyes; the clearest blue, like glacial ponds they are; and he has a mass of white golden curls haloing his head like an angel. He loves his super heroes, especially Batman. I hoped an invisible, winged warrior was by his side, fighting with him, championing him to get well again; I rather think there might have been.

Praise the Lord. It was found that he didn't have Leukemia after all, but instead, had an extreme reaction to Glandular Fever - of all things. His mother expressed her utter joy with the news, and then acknowledged her instant guilt, since she was standing in the oncology department of a Children's Hospital, where such miraculous hopes would not be forth coming, for the majority of children and worry stricken families, surrounding her. But still, she was beyond relieved to take her dear boy home at the end of the fifth day.

Unfortunately, Boyd is not out of the woods yet. He is still enduring a battery of test, since his reaction was so unusual and extreme. He is still very weak, and though he went to pre-school yesterday, he had to rest for the remainder of the day. So with fingers firmly crossed and prayers abound, I hope for little Boyd and his family, that his sickness, will come down to being one of those mysterious events that sometimes occur in our lives, to ensure we are present and passionate participants in life. Please God, say it is so. Let there be only health and happiness to come for this family.

I know I looked into my children's eyes a little longer just now, and sat with them long after they had falling asleep last night, and gave them a tighter squeeze when they run up for a hug when they awoke. Our own lives may be long, but our time with those we love, is so short.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Baby Dolls

Never really been a doll person. I had dolls when I was little, but I didn't really connect with them.

All but one of my dolls were made of hard plastic; providing me little comfort, with their cold rigid little bodies and lifeless eyes. No, it were teddy bears and other stuffed animals that I delighted in most.

I took one particular bear everywhere with me. It had no name, but I would hold the ear of that fuzzy brown bear to my nose, and for whatever reason; its familiar smell soothed me, but not the dolls.

I tried to love my dolls; brush their odd stiff hair, and dress their inflexible bodies. I would wheel them around in the dolls pram, but ultimately, their lack of response and vacant expressions became a source of resentment to me, and I vented my frustration in various ways: ousting them from the dolls pram in preference for the stuffed animals, cutting their cascading fake locks, dressing them in the ugly dolls clothes, thus favouring my favourite doll outfits for the animals, scribbling on them with pen.....

I was never a pretty child. My parents dressed me as a boy, preferring to purchase plain, non-gendered clothing, so my brother could benefit from them once I had outgrown them. My hair, a mess of curls, was cut boyishly short, so my mother didn't have to struggle with the tangled birds nest atop my head. Those who didn't mistake me for a boy, assumed I were a tom-boy, but I was actually a little girl, screaming on the inside, to express her femininity.

I wanted the long hair in braids. I wanted my ears pierced. I wanted to wear pretty dresses that twirled when I spun and flounced when I ran. I wanted to own pink things, play dress-ups and beauty shop; learn ballet and go to girl scouts with my friends, but none of this was to be.

One Christmas, I asked for a doll with long hair - the emphasis was the long hair, a feature that would enable me to experiment with; style and make pretty, so when the time came, that I could grow my own hair long and pretty, like the other girls, I would know how to style it.

I did receive a doll with long hair that Christmas. She was a doll with eyes that closed when I laid her down. Like the others, she consisted of a hard plastic body, and legs that moved only at the hip, so when she was sat down her legs spread wide - most unlady-like; and arms that twisted only from the shoulder.

She had a lovely face, quite pretty in fact. She was dressed in a long old fashioned dress, with a cameo broach clasped at the throat. Her hair was a beautiful rich, red; the colour of paprika, and so shiny. The light caught her red tresses in such a way, that it seemed to be dotted with the tiniest fairy lights. I would have willingly traded my unruly blond boy-cut, for hair of that colour. Her long hair was styled into a sweet, feminine bun, with pieces falling about her ears, twisted into spiralling soft wisps.

I couldn't wait to let down her hair and take to it with a soft brush; plait it, braid it, tie it back and up, a million different ways. She was just what I wanted....until I was told that I could never let down her hair. It was to stay up. Her hair was to stay in that same perfectly coiffed style forever more. "Her hair is not for playing with", I was told. How disappointed I was, and while I played with that doll a lot longer than the others I owned, once again, I grew frustrated by my inability to interact with my pretty friend, until one day, I couldn't stand it anymore, and I pulled at the stitching that secured her bun, sending a mass of scarlet curls tumbling past her shoulders. To my utter horror, her hair was a terrible spiky crop all over her crown; the length sprouted only from the nape of her neck, and had merely been bundled on top hiding the nasty truth beneath. My mother had been correct; the only way her hair looked pretty was in that untouchable up-do, and now I had ruined it.

My daughter really enjoys dolls. I had never been inclined to buy her one, since I lacked the connection with my own, but her Godmother gave her one for her first birthday, and she really liked it. Two Christmases ago,she was given another, and last summer I let her pick one toy from the toy shop in town. She chose a little purple clothed doll.

She runs straight to the dolls at playgroup and enjoys putting them in the high chair, the crib, the dolls pram and wheeling them around. Her only frustration with her own purple doll, was that it came with a bottle and a pacifier, but neither fit in her mouth, they are just for pretend. So when I asked her what she wanted for her up coming birthday, she answered that she wanted a doll that she could give a bottle and pacifier to.

Yesterday I went to the store, aware that there would be a variety of dolls available, and also thinking that I would easily make my choice and be out of there. WRONG. Yes there were a number of dolls, and there were a number that enabled one to secure a pacifier in its mouth, but they were also kind of ...well....creepy.

One doll - Baby Alive, had these huge eyes. They blinked but otherwise stared in a possessed startled fashion. The doll spoke and giggled in a high pitched sugary sweet tone. It ate food and pooped, but get this, and this is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Baby Alive, the doll sniffs the air, lip curling to the imaginary (I hope) scent, and says "I made a stinky"! I don't know about you, but there is something a bit unsavoury about that. I decided that Baby Alive could "make stinky's" for some one else.

There was another doll - the Interactive Chou Chou. It cried real tears, it drank real water from a cup, it didn't wet or poop though (which I actually appreciate), so the drink must get recycled into tears. It cries and talks, laughs and interacts with an array of "accessories" many of which you have to buy separately - I could see big dollars being invested in the future of this doll, so no thanks.

There was another doll that literally shut its eyes. A fold of "skin "enveloped them when one pressed the dolls hand. It was an interesting feature, rather life-like, but naaaaah. It was a bit freaky for my liking; besides, the doll wore a bit of a doped out expression.

There were an array of other dolls, that came with a pile of bits of pieces, most dolls these days seem to be soft bodied, with only the knees down and forearms to hands made of a soft plastic or rubber -like substance. But after a good 45 minutes of pondering, and almost walking away, feeling rather unnerved by the sea of baby doll eyes bearing down on me from all angles, I gathered my nerve and settled on Lullaby Chou Chou. It sucks on a bottle and the pacifier can be placed in its mouth. It doesn't poop. It giggles and cries. It can be dressed and undressed, and has a soft, movable cuddly body. It didn't have as many of the features as some of the other dolls, but then I figured, let Missy Mopps stage some of the imaginary play herself.

I hope Missy Mopps likes her.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Fridays Feast


Appetiser
Who is your favorite news anchor/reporter? Why?

Rob Kelvin. He is a news reader from my hometown: Adelaide, South Australia.

I am not all that into news readers, but I have always felt a considerable amount of compassion for this man.

His son was kidnapped and murdered in 1983, and though, I never saw him read the reports concerning his son's disappearance or the subsequent proceedings against his son's murderer, he was present alongside his co-anchor, at least during the reports concerning leagl proceedings.

The boy was found dead, after being lost almost two months , and although I was only 10 when this boy disappeared, I always felt that it must have been terribly diffcult to present oneself professionally, while this private turmoil was taking place. He always seemed like such a nice man.

Soup
Name 3 foods that are currently in your freezer.

Raspberries (mmmm)
Falaffels
Frozen veggies

Salad
If you were to have the opportunity to name a new town or city, what would you call it?

Sunnybrook. 10 years ago, in Australia, I had a vision of being present in a place with a delightfully green park and a giant tree, like a majestic elm, spreading its sturdy limbs out before me, like assuring open arms. A woman with ash blonde hair, wearing a bright red jacket, was standing under the tree to greet me. Standing beside her, was a child, also wearing red. As I looked around this lovely scene, I asked the woman, "Why am I here?" She said "I don't know". Then I asked her "Where am I?" and she said "Sunnybrook". So in my effort to end the search for this idyllic spot, I would ensure that a large public park were created in the middle of the town, where a gentle creek ran nearby. I would plant an elm, in the hope that it developed similarly to the one in my vision, and I would name the town - Sunnybrook.

Main Course
What will most likely be the next book you read?
"Snow Falling on Cedars". A couple of days ago my friend said she would lend me her copy.

Dessert
What's the first thing you notice about the opposite gender?

Energy. It is not something you notice. It is something that grabs you, forcing you to delve deeper, with heightened curiosity. Then I notice a conglomeration of various physical attributes to justify why I was drawn to further scrutinise, this particular individual from the sea of faces that present themselves daily. You know what I mean? We don't notice everybody.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Poetry Thursday - image inspiration

For Poetry Thursday this week, the completely and totally optional idea called for image inspiration.

For this topic, we were to be inspired by an image of something and, if possible, post a picture of our inspiration.

I decided to post a poem I wrote almost a year ago. My poem, Witness, was inspired from the memory of watching a passing storm, as I stood alone on a secluded cliff top; gazing out to sea. The storm was violent, but contained, and so I was able to watch the passing activity, without having a single drop of rain fall upon me. It was quite a spiritual experience...so near, was I to the storm, that I could almost touch it.

This poem was inspired by my memory of that passing squall. I witnessed it over 10 years ago, but the imagery was so powerful, that it stayed with me. So I apologise for not having a picture of the actual inspiration.

I wrote this poem inspired firstly by the literal, but the poem itself is actually a metaphor for something that was going on around me at the time; something that was nothing much to do with me, nevertheless, I stood as a witness to it, and from my vantage point, I felt I could see its inevitable path - beginning, through to end.

Witness
Through smattered salt sprayed window panes,
A curtain cautiously flutters.
A distant murmur entwines a tender breeze;
Stormy undertones blend nautical mutter.

Threatening cumulus bloom with haste.
Ferocity builds with tempest’s intent.
A distant mist drenches heavy horizons,
Expressing God and Angels lament.

From a plateau of bordering coastal crust;
having endured eons of nature’s lashings,
Bearing witness to this distant mistral,
Though absent from its transmuting passions.

Marine bound rain replenishing
The weary soul of the salty sea.
Gently sweeping as do wings of a wasp,
Or sprouting forth like bloody mutiny.

I dwell the crown of this shy plateau,
Where below, earth and water collide.
I observe the tempest billowing westward,
An untamed odyssey, it loathes to subside.

© Strauss
22/4/06

Foot in Mouth

Sometimes we say and do things that just make us cringe with the after-thought....I should know.

A few years ago, for example, we invited my brother and his new girlfriend over for dinner. We had met her before, but this was the first time we had invited her into our home.

A few weeks earlier, the said girlfriend had invited us to her 21st birthday party, but since we didn't really know her, we figured her invitation was extended more so out of politeness, than genuine want for us to be there, so we spared her the torture of having some distant acquaintances dampen her partying mood, and politely declined - she wasn't heart broken.

I remember it was some kind of themed party - mad hatters, or something... Anyway, the girlfriend brought the party photos to show us over dinner.

The photos mostly involved group shots of people I didn't know, and the occasional funny one of my brother being a fool, but then I came upon a photo of this guy - obviously drunk - standing with his tongue hanging out, knees bent and pelvis thrust - it was a most unfortunate shot and really quite unattractive, so naturally (as you do) I blurted out, pointing and laughing at the poor intoxicated devil in the picture, "Who is that dickhead!" To which, the girlfriend quietly replied, "my Dad".

Absolutely mortified by the utterances of my big fat mouth, I spluttered some cringe-worthy back-pedalling nicety to cover up my very obvious and totally insensitive remark; a reaction my brother, who was unsuccessfully stifling his hysterics, decided to draw attention to.

But I think my largest moment of shame came when I was seventeen. I had a bad attitude - worse than I do now (ha ha). I was from the country and had just moved to the city, where I knew no one and no one knew me.

I was in a shopping centre car park when a car load of people passed by, gawking. Ashley, my then boyfriend of 8 months, was fossicking around in the car while I stood waiting. I didn't appreciate the car load of unfamiliar starers; people who had even turned in their seats for an longer more scrutinising look, as they passed me by. So I decided to give them the royal salute or as it is more commonly known - the finger. That'll teach 'em.

I can tell you I was more than horrified to have that car load of people walk up to us only minutes later, and having Ashley introduce me to his Aunt, Uncle and four cousins - HORRIFIED, I tell you! They are the nicest people, so nice that none of them has ever mentioned my disgraceful behaviour, and I have known them 16 years. I felt so bad about it that I confessed to Ashley a couple days later - he wasn't all that impressed.

So why am I confessing some of my less glittering moments? Well today at Nordic Walking, the boot was on the other foot, although no where near as awful as my previous conduct, but still, I could feel for those involved ;)

I was talking with this guy, and he was making a joke about some clients of his, who are called Sheila and Bruce - the joke being that all Aussies are reputedly named either Sheila or Bruce - and so he figured that this couple must have been Australian, they weren't, but it was a joke. Anyway....

At the end of the walk, the guy I was speaking to earlier, myself and another woman, were first to finish, and we got to talking while stretching. After a few moments of talking the woman says to me, in all seriousness - "your name is Sheila, isn't it"? The guy cracked up laughing and I informed the woman that she was incorrect.

Ignoring the guy to her right, the woman asked herself - out loud, why she thought my name was Sheila. With mirth, I volunteered that it might be because I am Australian. She looked a bit embarrassed, but said that she "didn't get it". So I explained that Sheila is a derogatory term in Australia, meaning woman.


Then another woman joined the conversation,
"What is?" she wanted to know.
So I explained, "Sheila and bloke are words that refer to woman and man, in Australia".
Another woman entered the conversation.
"What was that?" she asked.
So I started, "Sheila and bloke..."
"Are they the names of your kids?" someone else innocently interrupted.
By this time those who are up to speed, are in fits of laughter.

After all that, the original woman to muddle up my name, begins to walk back with me, and awkwardly strikes up a little chat along the way, I get a sense she is trying to make up for the Sheila thing - though it honestly didn't worry me. Anyway, she lets me know she thinks I am doing well in the group. I am "like an aardvark (!?)", she announced.


With an air of confused surprise, I smiled and replied "Okay".
Sensing my confusion the woman added "Yes! Like an.... Australian rodent/aardvark".


"Right" I said, highly amused. I think this is getting worse; time to change the subject.....

We don't actually have aardvarks in Australia. Are these animals notably swift?...What are aardvarks noted for anyway? And "rodent", what was she really trying to say? A rodent strikes me as a disease-ridden animal that everyone hates.

Jokes aside, I think she was trying to compliment me, but as I am fully aware and adequately experienced to note, sometimes you just can't dig yourself out of a hole, so it is perhaps best, if we avoid trying.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

murphy's law

Why is it that kids poop their pants or dogs vomit on the carpet just as your guests rock up outside the front door?
Never had that experience?
Oh. It must be just my lucky set of circumstances then - sigh. Nevermind.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Coming Clean

I really don’t know what to say…

It looks like there is a very strong possibility that we will be going back to Australia, in the not so distant future. There are various reasons for this sudden turn of events, and I have been in full-on contemplation mode about these reasons, over the past three or so weeks.

Ashley arrived home from Nigeria Friday night; the distance between him and the office spurring his desire to break free, even more. I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know when it is going to happen and I sure as hell don’t know what we are going to do in Australia, if and when we do make it across those fair waters, toward the southern hemisphere – to the land of sweeping plains.

We have considered the logistics of the second gigantic move of our lives, and all the important factors. Like, what are we going to do with ourselves? Where, in that vast country, are we going to live? Do we go back to where we sprang from or somewhere new?

It is funny; I have been scanning the Aussie real estate sites, trying to gather inspiration as to where we might live. For some reason I was looking at Katoomba, in the beautiful Blue Mountains of New South Wales – it is a place I have never been, but have always wanted to visit.

There was a photograph of a house on this particular website – I can’t remember whether it was even desirable, but it was in a lovely bush setting in the mountains. One of the photos within the collection showcasing this property contained a visual of a dirt track, with eucalyptus bush land leering and looming in around it like a guard of honour. For a brief moment I was transported. I could hear my feet crunching along that gritty track. I could feel the warm sun on my back and a gentle breeze swirling playfully in my hair. I could hear the sound of kookaburras laughing and magpies warbling, and I saw a cluster of tiny brown birds dart across me, from my right. The sky was the colour of blue topaz, with shaggy wisps of white cloud scattered haphazardly across the expansive oblivion. I could even smell a familiar suffocating mixture of powdered earth and dry gums leaves; a mixture that stirs from even the lightest trampling of feet.

It was staggering at how familiar this scene was to me; how real it seemed in that moment- like I was there. It was like the landscape; the bush; the gums; the bird calls of my native land, were exuding from the very marrow of my bones.

But despite these feelings, this strange comfort and familiarity, I also had a feeling that it was beyond me, and unexpected.

I don’t think I can articulate this very well, but it was kind of like…..well, I kind of got this message that was reassuring me that this land was not going any place and for me to enjoy my time in BC for a little while longer. Perhaps it was telling me to say my goodbyes to BC, to take her in; notice her gifts and special attributes; be present; breathe her into my bones and into my heart, to that place where I can never forget her.

I have no entitlements in Canada, unlike Australia, where I was born and bred. Canada owes me nothing, nor do I don’t expect her to, and so I am acutely aware that I will never again have the opportunity to get to know her like I have over the past two years. I guess in a way, I am already experiencing the inevitable separation, and a budding of loss. I guess, when the time comes, it will be easier to say goodbye.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

fridays feast

Appetizer
Name two things that made you smile this week.

Finding "Up there Cazaly" on youtube and remembering my youth growing up with aussie footy. I even blogged about the experience. I was so overjoyed.

And getting my socially reluctant 4 year old to participate in a Spring Break Day Camp. He refused to stay the first day, which I feared would be the case, yet again. But asked to go the second day, and he allowed me to leave. He said he had so much fun. The remaining days were no problem. It was a small win for me, but an enormous win for him - he is so shy.

My trick was to draw a "magic heart" on his hand before I left. The magic heart was a symbolic promise that I was thinking of him and would be back at 12 to pick him up. I have had to use the heart at various time as a token of reassurance - hey, if it helps...it helps.

Soup
Fill in the blank: Don't you hate it when: you spend good money to buy fresh healthy food ,and make a tasty hearty meal, only to have the kids turn up their noses and refuse to eat it, because it is "something different"?

Salad
When you can't go to sleep, what is your personal remedy to help yourself drift into Lullabyland?

Dear me, nothing much works for me, I am afraid. I tend to stay up writing or watching TV until the wee small hours until I actually am sleepy.

Main Course
What is something about which you've always wondered but have not yet found a good answer?

I am an idiot just for admitting this, but I just don't get how colours are created and then communicated to our brains so we can differentiate between the various hues and subtleties. It has been explained to me, but I still don't get it. Please don't offer me any explanations, I fear my brain might explode.

Dessert
What is your favorite pasta dish?

Tortellini with butternut pumpkin, sage and cheese

Pre-heat over to 220 degrees Celsius or 405 Fahrenheit.
Place 1kg of butternut pumpkin/squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into a large (5cm deep 20x30)roasting pan along with
2 table spoons chopped fresh sage
1 clove garlic
and salt and pepper to taste
Toss well
Roast for 20 minutes or until tender

Cook 500gms spinach and cheese tortellini (or other cheese tortellini) for approximately 6minutes.
Drain well

Combine 1 cup thickened/whipping cream
250gms mini bocconcini
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
stir
and pour over roast pumpkin mix
Bake for 15 minutes until golden
and serve with a leafy green salad.




Poetry Thursday - define


Antipodean

-“I get a sense you are anti-Podeon. Am I correct, Sir?”

-“Awww…I wouldn’t know anything about that, Mate.
Didn’t know the bloke.
He died long before my time.
I got nothin’ against the French, but.
Although, I didn’t like his hat much... now that ya mention it.”

© Strauss
14 March 2007

Very, very silly indeed.
This week’s completely and totally optional idea for Poetry Thursday was noted as “defined”. Contributors were asked to scour their dictionaries in search for interesting words. We were not to look at the meaning, but define the word based on our own impressions. I nearly didn’t do this one. I tried earlier in the week, but it didn’t really work for me. Then I remembered, that I was asked the above question, soon after arriving in Canada. Was I Antipodean? The inquirer was met with a blank glaze-eyed stare, as I answered in a rather ambling monotonous voice; I am Australian. He replied that he “thought so” and then he left. In response, I scurried off home in search of a dictionary, for I had never heard the word, antipodean, in my life.

I am often asked straight out, if I am Australian or queried as to whether I am an Australian or a New Zealander. The less presumptuous ask where I am from; referring to my accent. So, I have chosen to take a different slant on the defined theme.

Being Australian is among the things and attributes that define me, particularly while living in Canada. So, I thought I might share one of my favourite poems.

Clancy of the Overflow was written by legendary Australian “bush poet”, A.B “Banjo” Paterson. Banjo Paterson’s poetry assisted in romanticising and defining early Australian life, particularly rural life. Banjo Paterson also penned classics, such as Waltzing Matilda and The Man from Snowy River. If you want to learn more about ole Banjo, click on the clink provided.

Clancy of the Overflow
by A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just on spec, addressed as follows, "Clancy, of The Overflow"

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal --
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of The Overflow.

"The Bulletin" 21 December 1889
**Just so you know, Antipode refers to any two places or regions that are on diametrically opposite sides of the earth. Anitpodeans are the inhabitants.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Simply Horrid

I love a good catalogue (please don't send me any...phew!).

No seriously, I do enjoy a quick flick through the catalogues that happen upon my doorstep; not your cheapo sales flyers, but the the magazine quality, glossy versions. Restoration Hardware is an example of the type of catalogue I am happy to ponder - not that I have ever bought anything from there, but they do send me a catalogue for my own perusal and entertainment all the same...how kind of them.

Yesterday, I received from the post office, no bills, no personal mail, no parcels - just advertising, bound together with a thick green rubber band, as if the post office were attempting to assist me with the inevitable bin file, by neatly bundling the documents most likely bound straight for the landfill. Having said that, I did release the band that secured the 5 or so flyers, just to make sure there wasn't anything of any great importance.

Among the clutch of papers was a flyer for a roof restoration company, a take-out menu to a local restaurant, McDonald's coupons, and an envelope containing a collection of "specials" from a variety of retailers. The only thing worth affording a second glance was The Home Depot's Dream Book.

The Dream Book is quite obviously aimed at women, with its little decorator knick knacks, furniture and soft furnishings adorning its shimmering pages. Personally I would rather have all my teeth extracted than venture into The Home Depot and hardware stores like it, especially if I have the kids in tow.


Anyway, I was giving the catalogue a glance while eating my dinner last night; mentally jotting down items on my You Wish! List, when I turned the page (pg 23 if you were wondering) to an image that was really quiet disturbing. This first image at the top of this posting shows an entire room wall papered in this ghastly print.
This wall paper, if you hope to avoid it, is called Raven Glass, by Shand Kydd. Its volume really is enough to cause even the staunchest shabby chic enthusiast to tuck oneself up into the fetal position and rock back and forth while clutching a beige paint sample to their bosom, with an insane twitching about their left eye.
I don't know if you can see this picture well enough, but even the door is wall papered. The caption reads "Add baseboard at the bottom and turn a door into a secret passage." I think the more realistic caption should read, "For your own amusement, add a baseboard at the bottom of the door and watch your one night stand awaken to the horror of this overbearing room and grow increasingly panicked at the thought that he is trapped forever."
Still reeling from page 23, I decide to turn the page, only to find page 24, sporting the unthinkable - a wallpapered ceiling. Or as I like to call it - the bane of future renovator's lives.
The caption for this stroke of decorator genius reads: "Papering the ceiling instead of the walls makes a space more interesting and intimate", which is another way of saying - a point of contention and cramped. The caption should perhaps read "how to devalue your property in one easy step".
Now this next image is a corker, if you ask me. It was not from the Home Depot catalogue, but rather one of those amusing catalogues that mysteriously wind up on your doorstep, every so often.
I have never succeeded in my attempt to spot our area's distributor of said catalogues, which are mostly filled with items no one in their right mind would want or desperately need; and even if one does happen upon something worthy of mild consideration, the rest of the items tend to taint its overall impression, and one winds up dismissing the said item with a what was I thinking, "Naaaaaaah!"
Nevertheless, I included the "tree face", as I felt it would probably suit the garden of any home considering the previous two decorating tips.
Much to my relief, I have seen this item featured in the drop and run catalogues over the past year or so, and have never encountered a tree sporting "the face".
But, in reference to this item's description, I would like to know exactly what part of a large plastic face on a tree is "realistic". I do however, buy the line about your tree becoming "the talk of the neighbourhood", as people will likely come from miles around to stand in amazement and ask..."Why?" , while small children plead for their mothers to find an alternative route, rather than be made to walk past "the house with the scary tree ".

Monday, 12 March 2007

March Write away contest


The following post has been posted for Scribbits March Write Away contest - childhood memories.

I am a late entrant so I don't expect to win, but here is the link if you think you might be interested in reading other entries or perhaps making a contribution to a future contest.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

The Dream and the reality

I have travelled before.

It is certainly a desire of mine to be touched by the experiences offered by another country or community and its culture or people. I want to visit many places in this expansive world, both near and far, and I am sure I will. There is only the assurance of time for any one of us, and although the exact quantity of time remaining is ambiguous, it is our choice how we spend it.

When Ashley and I travel we tend to get a little carried away about our trips. We study guides and map out full programs along the most efficient routes, in order to fit it all in. We generally come home satisfied that we got to "see" all that we wanted to see, and more, but seeing is one thing, but what about "being"? Well I guess that is where "the dream" comes in.

I have been told a couple of things about "the dream". Not the dreams we have when we are asleep, but the things we would like to see happening in our experience of life. I have been told that everyone has to have a dream to keep them going - to keep them interested and motivated. A dream or ultimate goal enables us to plug away at the daily grind, endure hardship, and survive. Viktor Frankl discusses this at depth throughout his book Man in Search for Meaning..

Another perspective tells us that a dream is not something we should necessarily strive to achieve. Rather, it is something you simply hope to achieve, and by thinking about our dream often; imagining every detail; seeing ourselves 'there', basking in the moment of its full, untainted-by-reality, glory, the dream itself, rather than its achievement, gives life meaning.

According to these lines of thought, if we were to fulfill our dream, we might find that we no longer had anything to live for, or worse; the reality of the dream could be utterly disappointing, and we would have wasted our life on an unworthy dream - so says the 'crystal merchant/tea house owner' in Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist (another recommendation). Well find ANOTHER dream, geez!

So....my dream.

My dream was to live overseas for at least one year. OK, done. Life over. Just joking..... Yes that was a dream of mine. I know it isn't that exotic, people do it all the time. Although I haven't yet returned, so I guess I am still living out my dream. It was a worthy dream, because it wasn't exactly easy to pull off. It took some courage, and I have learnt much from the experience. But now that this dream has been attained, I do need to grab hold of the next rung and reach for something else along these monkey bars of life.

I think perhaps I have had two dreams... maybe more if I really think about it. The living overseas one, which possibly emerged as a teenager - I had a ridiculous number of overseas penfriends and I was simply fascinated to read about their lives.

The faint dream of one day becoming a writer is a secret I have long held under lock and key, and close to my heart. I have enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember; for me it is a release or (until recently) a private act of unburdening.

I started out writing limericks and short poems for Possum Pages (a kids creative purge in the local Sunday newspaper. Quantity rather than quality was the general mainstay of the Possum Pages I am afraid- it had to be said -not sure if it still exists though).


If published in Possum Pages, you were sent a certificate and sometimes a book prize. Some of my "work" was published, along with the lovely drawings my brother always seemed to produce. I can't actually remember any of my fine contributions, so I might provide an example (they were probably awful anyway).

In high school I wrote letters to friends, morbid private poetry full of teenage angst, and silly stories for English class.

As a young adult I continued the poetry, but the creative side got lost for a few years, while I wrestled my mind into the rigidity and discipline of "anything but creative", academia. I did write a thesis, I guess that is something.

Today I write this blog; I email friends; I have attempted to renew my passion for bad poetry writing; I have even entertained writing short stories, and children's books, but the dream of becoming a career writer remains as elusive as ever; and since all other career aspirations appear to have been blocked by a higher power to ensure I never take one step down that shaky and questionable road, I am more strongly noticing the writing theme in my life and am testing its importance to me.
Maybe I will never be a great writer. Perhaps I will never write anything worth publishing, bar my lonely thesis, which sits in some dank and uunfrequented corner of the university library; full of my now trade mark editing paux pas, oops. But it is a dream, a worthy dream, and a dream that keeps me going.
*This post was enter as a contribution to the Sunday Scribblings prompt - Dream journey. If you are interested in the contents of night dreams. I posted such an offering only a couple of days ago. If you are remotely interested, here is the link to Dreaming.

Friday, 9 March 2007

My small world

It is funny how one singular, mundane act or observation can spurn an ambush of thoughts. I liken the phenomenon to a darkened stage in which a single actor is spot-lit and then suddenly the red velvet curtains are flung back to a blaring brass band and flurry of colourful and overwhelming activity on a broadened stage.

Yesterday I took the kids to Richmond. There is a decent mall there. It was not that I was exactly awash with dosh, rather it was raining and we needed something to do, so we went mall walking and window shopping.

Inside the mall, Cathay, the airline, has donated a play gym, in the shape of an aeroplane. The kids love it.

I was observing the 8 or so kids playing.They were all playing rather rough, but in a good way. A girl in front of me, scrambled enthusiastically onto the wing of the plane and then something fell; a single pink button, which rolled under the aeroplane. I tried to get the girl's attention, but she was having too much fun to notice me on the fringe of activity, so I let it go.

Witnessing the unleashed button hurtling to the ground, set me thinking about the button's fate and what I would do with a single pink button, and then to my own hopeless sewing skills. For instance, the black jumper I made in home economics class in grade 8; the one with the holes in the arm pits; the jumper that my sewing skilled Mum was so affronted and appalled by, that she made me spend the entire following weekend making another jumper, under her guidance - a canary yellow version that I could wear to netball (canary yellow, then being among my least favourite colours; black on the other hand...). I think I have detested sewing ever since.

It is perhaps my single regret in life, that I can not sew. My attempts are truly, so amateur, that the word amateur is an insult to all sewing people who call themselves amateur...I am a plain old non-sewer. I can't even handle the task of a simple row of stitching to mend a tear, darn a sock or hitch a hem - let alone affix a button. I have considered buying a machine and then try teaching myself, but I have managed to fight the urge thus far.

Sigh, what a waste - to behold that single bright pink button, laying detached and purposeless upon a cloud covered carpet; destined for the tip when the cleaners come along at days end; its useful life over, and who knows from whence it had travelled and the experiences it had had along the way, only to be met by such an anti-climatic end....

My son brought me back from the tragedy of my collective thoughts concerning the pink button, presenting his palm with the gleaming pink button, resting in the centre. Smiling he said, "look what I found". Looking around, the girl and her family appeared to have left, so I told him to put it in his pocket. He asked me to look after it for him, and I gladly took it, thinking further about what I could do with the button, as I gazed upon its cheerful, candy-like hue.

Since I was clearly unqualified to sew it to anything, I changed my tact and considered craft ideas for the button -mmm scrap-booking. People use all kinds of stuff to pretty up their photo pages. Perhaps I could use it for some kind of craft project...yes. And so, I resigned to placing it in a box for a rainy day.

The girl, whose pants had previously been adorned with a pink button at the ankle, passed me by, just as I began considering the reality that the poor button would likely be found in a century or so, rattling around in some discarded, dusty old box covered with cob-webs.

I reached into my pocket and approached her, "I think this might be yours", I said presenting her with the button. She looked disappointed that the button has fallen off, but her mother (bless her), assured her that she could sew it back on. The girl and her mother thanked me and walked away; the button had been given a second chance to live out its purpose.

So there you have it- yesterday I was a button's hero :)

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Friday's Feast - The first

This is the first time I have contributed to Friday's Feast. It sounded fun, so I thought I would give it a go.

Appetizer
What is your usual bedtime? Do you like that, or would you rather it be different?

I am a night owl. I confessed in a recent posting to not being a good sleeper. I tend to go to bed around midnight to 1am, sometimes later. It would probably assist my state of mind to retire to the bedroom a bit earlier than that, but I get no respite from the kids all day, and feel, once they go to bed, that this is my time; time I don't want to be spending asleep.

I get up at 7am with the kids - they are my alarm clocks.

Soup
When it comes to advice, do you give more or receive more?

Oh Man!
I tend to give it more. I am a trained social worker, who aspired to being a counsellor - what does that tell you? On top of that, I am an isolated Mother and an amateur numerologist; talk about an advice giving FREAK.


A friend of mine often concludes her advice to me with "I know you want do it, you've never been good at taking advice." I honestly don't think I am that pig headed. I do listen to advice, and I weigh the advice I am given. Sometimes I take advice, but I also know my own limitations. I don't really ask for advice that often, which sounds really arrogant, I know. I really DON'T have it all together that often.

Salad
Describe a memorable meal you've had.

I love salmon. If salmon is on the menu, I am ALMOST guaranteed to order it.
Once when Ashley and I were in Hobart, a city in Tasmania, Australia, we went to this lovely, kind of trendy restaurant. It was very new and had apparently been getting rave reviews, or so the manager at our lodgings told us, so we thought we would check it out.

I was delighted that salmon was on the menu, but somewhat at odds with description of the accompanying sauce - "squid ink". I ordered the salmon, all the same - how bad could it be, right? Well I don't mind telling you that it was bloody awful. The sauce truly was as black as ink - imagine nice black teeth and lips from the eating, mmm MMM! It tasted quite like accidentally sucking the ink from your pen, except with a strong fishiness about it.

The worst part, and perhaps the most ridiculous part about the whole squid ink saga, was that I really wanted to like it, and I didn't want to appear ignorant, in questioning the sanity of including squid ink in a meal. Mostly, I didn't want that, the most detestable of sauces, to spoil my salmon experience. So I questioned and dismissed my revolted senses, telling myself that it was "just different", "unusual"; anything before the truth. The truth did come. It came in the form of "Ok, I admit it. Squid ink is HORRIBLE and I shudder at the thought of another bite". Take this disgusting creation away dear waiter, and hand me a napkin so I can scrub this nasty taste off my tongue - QUIIIIIICK!

The experience was certainly one for the "upon reflection" humour file.... I do not recommend it.

Main Course
Name a work of fiction that affected the way you think about something.

The Celestine Prophesy. It made me hopeful that this experience we call life, actually might have a purpose; that there might be a reason for everything and everyone. That things, experiences, sensations should not be taken for granted and over looked.

This book prompted a spiritual awakening for me, and for a time I could not read enough about "the spiritual", and so I have been shaped from the knowledge gained from that book's initial prompting, and I have a stronger faith in the universe, as a result.

Dessert
What is your favorite type of fruit juice?

Cranberry. Cranberry juice is really expensive in Australia, but not so here in Canada, where the humble cranberry thrives.

I am also quite partial to pink grapefruit juice.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Poetry Thursday - Red

This weeks Poetry Thursday prompt was quite simply Red.

Coincidentally, I had written a "red" poem only two weeks ago, but didn't really connect with it. In fact it is still sitting in draft status somewhere on the Burnt Offerings back burner (pardon the pun). I guess my impromptu attempt was merely a practice.


Spike-heeled stilettos
roam the streets in wait.
Red Light District,
in the dark corners of the night.

Shiny leather boots
march defiantly as one.
The world's Red Armies
Unite the Communist front.

Winter pale toes
stomp the season's first fruit.
A silky red wine
born from luscious juice.

Bare Indigenous feet
dance The Brolga with precision.
Dry red dirt
swirling with the movement.

Dorothy's famed shoes
click at the heels.
Ruby Red slippers
Just want to go home.

Swollen ankles - mine,
throb from standing.
Red woollen socks
With a hole in the toe.

© Strauss
6th March 2007

snow geese

Ashley left for Holland, Monday night. He will be away for about 10 days. This time, his trip includes a week in Nigeria, of all places.

Nevertheless, with the prospects of long lonely days with just me and the kids - and spring break next week - I thought it would help the sanity, of all, if we got out of the house as much as possible.

Miraculously, yesterday was a lovely day, so we headed for Westham Island for a picnic.

I have probably rattled on about Westham Island before, so I apologise for once again, blowing the trumpet, for this glorious spot.

Westham Island is a flat piece of land in Delta, British Columbia. Much of the island is farmland, with a few farmhouses dotted over its surface. A dike surrounds the island to save it from Fraser River flood waters.

At the northern tip of this very small island is the George Reifel Bird Migratory Sanctuary and Alaksen National Wildlife Area.

Alaksen incorporates the Sanctuary, but is primarily known as an environmental and wildlife research facility. You can visit there and walk the trails. We went there yesterday for the first time. The kids had a ball watching a barge drift along the Fraser, and traipsing through the dark woods, in search for the perfect walking stick. We also managed to hear a noisy woodpecker, though he remained visually elusive, despite three sets of eyes scanning the tree tops. It was fun, but I must take my hat off to the Bird Sanctuary, it is more inviting and visitor friendly, and the birds are definitely more abundant there.

We always love to feed the birds when we go. It is always a treat to scatter the first handful of golden seeds, and watch the birds swarm around us like bees. Most run over in their waddling way, some paddle furiously from the nearest pond and a few swoop down from...I don't know where - heaven, for all I know. Soon enough we are surrounded by a 100 or so ducks, all vying for their share of the seed spoil.

Anytime of the year is a good time to visit the Bird Sanctuary; spring is fun, because the baby birds are about, but the mothers are understandably protective and thus, can become rather aggressive. The ideal time to go is winter, the place is a winter migratory bird sanctuary after all.

The best and possibly most famous example of this winter phenomenon is the annual visit of Snow Geese. Thousands upon thousands of Snow Geese descend upon select spots along the North American west coast, from their nesting home, Wrangel Island; a Russian island located in the Arctic Ocean, north of Siberia.

Every time we have gone out to see the snow geese, their collective has merely been a lashing of white frosting in the distance, but yesterday, a roadside pasture was blanketed in white, like a foaming sea, moving, rising and falling, rushing in and ebbing away like the tide. Occasionally something would rile them and the entire flock would take to the sky; so many there were, that their swirling mass unit did something to my sense of balance, just as a fading tide might, when one stands in the shallows watching a broken wave rushing back into the ocean.

Their collective sound was of such volumes that I actually took pity on the residents of Westham Island, since living with that constant racket would surely give anyone a headache. If I could possibly describe their squawking, I would have to liken them to a panic among brokers on a crashing stock market floor, two minutes before closing time - take a look at the movie Trading Place, if you can't quite imagine it.

Every year the snow geese arrive to this neck of the woods - that amazes me. What draws them to this spot time and time again? Is it that few other places can be matched for the abundance of food and relative safety from predators? Do they realise that they are protected and even admired by the local people here, that their journey and calling upon our fair shores is so greatly anticipated that they think themselves to be kings and queens among us mere mortals and resident mallards? Or is it something else, something innate, as it is with Salmon heading up stream to spawn in the same sacred waters of their own births?

There is a silent genius about the universe's design, in that we must observe, study and take notice of things, in order to gain knowledge of our unanswered questions. Don't you think?

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

The Lake House

I just watched The Lake House starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.

I am uncertain as to whether I love it or hate it...

I mean, without giving too much away, I loved the dialogue; the idea of a mysterious impossible communication; the reaching out to each other anyway they could; the crossed paths and chance meetings, and I really loved the ending.

But....

Did any, among those who have seen this move, ever wonder why she didn't just attempt to Google the guy or something; he was the son of a famous Architect....

And that SONG - bloody awful!

I am sooooOOOooooo unromantic.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Bloke Talk

I took the kids to gymnastics yesterday. I have noticed that Saturdays seem to be Dads turn to take kids to their activities, since sports halls and the like are teeming with them - its a good thing. Nevertheless, I got stuck sitting with a group of thirty-something guys, which I thought would be an interesting change, for me.

So what enlightening discussion did they choose to part take in? Why, technology of course, and the focus of this blokey deep and meaningful was none other than the fascinating world of high definition television, or "Hi-Def", for groovers, hip enough to give a toss.

Every aspect of Hi-Def was discussed, although I can't recall verbatim, since my eyes glazed over with sheer boredom after approximately two minutes. I am a total technology-ignoramus, but I don't lose any sleep over the fact.

My ears did flare open at one astonishing claim by the group's unofficial Hi-Def expert. He was cautioning a wannabe hi-deffer about his up-coming purchase of a hi-def TV, warning him, not all the channels are hi-def yet, and (apparently) once you have gotten used to the wonder that is the Hi-Def experience, you just won't want to go back.

Others in the group nodded knowingly, but the wannabe simply shrugged and said "Oh", clearly undeterred by this news; the Hi-Def telly still claiming poll position on his priority purchases e-list.

The Hi-Def expert, attempting to highlight the revolutionary nature of Hi-Def and make sure EVERYONE knew he was one of the haves of the Hi-Def technology world, then made the claim that he "will scan all the channels, preferring to watch a hi-def program" over the washed out inferior stuff that only the ignorant will persist with - otherwise known as "regular television". I almost piped up and said, "of all the excuses to watch Oprah and The Gilmore Girls. Now that has to take the cake", but another guy intervened to ask the resident expert whether hi-def was available in a wireless format. I don't know what his answer was, my eyes had already glazed over and my hearing had all but seized up.

I guess the blokey tech talk was slightly more sophisticated than my experience with a bunch of women discussing their bowel movements - perhaps I am moving up in the world of social interactions after all.

Friday, 2 March 2007

erratic

Boy, have we ever run the gauntlet of atmospheric emotion, this week.


The beginning of the week was so bright and cheerful, one could have sworn it were mid-spring. Today though - sheesh - you may as well have plonked me in a snow globe and told me it were home. The scene looked like the Gods had forgotten to take the Kleenex out of their pockets before doing the washing, and were now giving their clothing a damn good shake out.

Today's snow was a complete surprise to me. I headed out the door on the way to pre-school, and concluded that the temperature was rather nippy. Thankfully, I felt inclined to bind each child in great wads of clothing, because I was in need of a long walk.

I wasted a bit of time in a store that was having an incredible clothing sale - jeans, no kidding $7.50!...I found NOTHING. I never have any luck at sales. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I was surprised to find a Bananas in Pyjamas book for 50 cents though. That is an Aussie kids show, so God only knows why the book was selling in Canada, I haven't seen it here...which might explain why it was selling on the jumble table for 50 cents.......(After looking it up on Bananas in Pyjamas on Wikpedia, I have learnt that "Banana's" are played in the States. So there you go, learning something new everyday).

Once I emerged from the store, the snow was falling thick and fast. Worried about my little girl swathed in jackets and gloves, but wearing only thin trousers, I decided to head home. The council trucks were on patrol assessing the situation - which is a bit premature for them. Normally they don't bother to scan our street until two weeks after the fact, when the entire community has taken to wearing ice skates and a helmet and the kids have declared a coo over the roads, pushing hockey pucks up and down the slippery streets.

Only then, well after the proverbial horse has bolted, do council workers bother to start sprinkling a minuscule smattering of salt over the road. It doesn't have much effect, especially since McDonald puts more salt on their fries, than the council seems capable of parting with, for the sake of drivers on the road. Then, just as the snow has all but melted away, the snow plows move in, normally some tiny ride-on mower looking thing.

You would think our street would qualify for urgent ploughing, since we have a pre-school, sports field and a large car park on our street, which seems to be reserved for local hoons to practice doing iced donuts and truck skating - but never mind.

Apparently it is supposed to be getting warm for the weekend (10 degrees). I hope so. I think I am over the whole snow thing for this year.