Hypergraphia is a condition that causes people to transcribe their thoughts uncontrollably. I don't suffer from it in the clinical sense, but I may be borderline. My blog is the cyber-wall where I spray paint my thoughts for all to see. By the way, if you came here directly through blogger --if your page has no yellow frames and no pretty pic of me in the top left corner -- you may want to visit my main site at www.hypergraffiti.com, where you can read this blog and much much more.


I'm Trudy Morgan-Cole, a writer from St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. My books include "The Violent Friendship of Esther Johnson," "Esther: A Story of Courage," and "Deborah and Barak." I'm also a married mom of two, a teacher in an adult-ed program, and a Christian of the Seventh-day Adventist kind. I blog about writing, reading, parenting, teaching, spirituality, and shiny things that catch my eye.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

As 2006 slips away...

...I'm afraid I have no Deep Thoughts to offer. Perhaps I can compose a suitably serious New Year's post for the first post of 2007, but this is the best I've got to offer for now: pictures of us sliding at Bowring Park today (on the small layer of icy snow that's on the ground).

Sometimes at the end of the year I like to do lists of my favourite things (scroll down on that link a bit to see last year's list)-- books, movies, etc -- from the past year. I'm not doing that today though, because I've done a lot of list-making recently and I'm not in the mood to make more lists. Over on Compulsive Overreader, I listed my Top Ten Books of 2006 along with a bunch of new reviews ... go check it out. Also, in case you missed them before, here are some of my other Top Ten posts ...

My Top Ten TV Crushes of All Time
My 100th Blog Post -- Ten Top Ten Lists

And my Top One wish for all my friends, family and blog-readers for 2007 -- happiness and whatever will make your dreams come true.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Four ... Calling Birds?

Here it is, the Fourth Day of Christmas already. Not a calling bird in sight (would we recognize one if we saw it?), but I do have a few minutes to update you on some random facts about Christmas 2006 at the Cole House.

First, though, a note about the Twelve Days of Christmas. The flip side of my attempt to observe Advent as a season of waiting and preparation rather than the usual pre-Christmas frenzy, is that I also firmly believe Christmas Day should be, not the end of the season, but the kick-off to a traditional, medieval-style full twelve days of feasting and celebration. (Which, to my modern sensibility, means sleeping late, reading a lot, and eating chocolate). I try hard to keep the Christmas mentality going throughout the Twelve Days, and to honour the old-fashioned tradition (still observed by lots of people here in Newfoundland, though fewer as the years go by) of keeping the tree up till January 6, Old Christmas Day.

This attempt to be all traditional and milk the celebration for all it's worth is somewhat hampered by my employer's expectation that I will be back to work on January 3. It's also affected by my own impatience -- I love relaxing and lazing around during the week between Christmas and New Year's, but after New Year's I quickly start to get impatient with the Chris-mess all over the house and want to haul down the decorations, put away the presents, and return my home to its usual state of pristine order (cue hysterical laughter here).

So, we are currently in Feasting and Merriment Mode though not convinced it will last all the way to Jan. 6. From Feasting and Merriment Central, here are a few highlights of the season:

Traditions Observed: Christmas Eve dinner with my extended family here at our house, highlight of the feast being lasagnas cooked by my dad. Lowlight, this year -- Aunt Bernice stayed home with a cold, and we really missed her. Christmas dinner up at my parents' place with turkey et al.

Only Known Drawback to Having Someone Else Do All the Major Christmas Cooking: No leftovers around the house. But we are struggling on, nonetheless.

Christmas Morning: Emma woke for the first time at 2:27 a.m. Yes, you read that right. She joyously announced it was Christmas morning and proceeded to toss and turn (in our bed of course) until she fell asleep again at 3:30. Then woke at 4:00. And 4:30. And so Christmas morning proceeded until 7:00 when we finally could delay the inevitable no longer and stumbled downstairs to open our presents. Fortunately the joy of watching our kids tear into the wrapping paper and exclaim with joy and awe almost offset the effects of the mind-numbing sleep deprivation.

As you can see from the picture, we had a green Christmas here in St. John's, although some snow has fallen since then -- most of the week has been piercingly cold but snowless. We've made it out for walks a few times to enjoy the sunshine when we have it, but there won't be any tobogganing parties or snowmen until January, probably.

My Favourite Present: "Totally 80s" Trivial Pursuit!! I have a long history of loving Trivial Pursuit but people being unwilling to play with me. I like to think this is because I'm so goooood but it may also be because I'm so insufferable about my trivia knowledge. However my darling husband lovingly bought me a trivia game specializing in the Decade That Defined My Life, and was willing to play a game and be totally trounced by me. Later, he trounced back, but that's another story.

Most Unexpectedly Successful Present: Emma's Tickle-Me-Elmo. There's a story behind this one. Having missed the original Elmo craze 10 years ago, I wasn't even aware that a tenth anniversary edition was coming out, nor would I really have cared had I known. But apparently our 92-year-old Aunt Gertie saw it advertised on TV and conceived a wish that Emma should have a Tickle-Me-Elmo for Christmas. My mom (who does her shopping) tried to dissuade her, because she knows as I do that Emma is big into being a Big Girl and having outgrown baby toys such as Elmo, Winnie-the-Pooh, and other old friends. Aunt Gertie would not be swayed: Emma must have Elmo. My mom told me in advance this gift would require some diplomacy so that Emma would appear appropriately grateful despite whatever disappointment she might feel.

As it turned out, diplomacy was unnecessary. Emma was captivated with Elmo's antics (oh I'll admit it; we all were for awhile) and was able to thank Aunt Gertie quite sincerely. I know this is a novelty toy and that she will not enjoy and play with it over and over like she will with her Polly Pockets or Chris will with his gazillion Lego sets he got for Christmas ... but as far as enjoying things in-the-moment goes, Elmo was a great gift as he allowed Emma to have a few laughs and Aunt Gertie to appreciate the laughter she'd looked forward to seeing on our little girl's face. Maybe the very old and the very young do understand each other better than we in-betweeners understand either of them.

Most Disappointing Christmas Present: Inexpensive kid-friendly digital cameras we bought for the kids. These were a huge hit with our kids, who love photography, until they discovered that the cameras mysteriously deleted pictures from their memory before they could be downloaded to the computer. We still have no idea what's erasing the pictures and can't get any response from the manufacturer's customer service, so we may end up returning these.

Most Relaxing Fun at Home (for me): Hanging around reading Robin Hobb's Assassin trilogy (not a Christmas gift: I bought them for myself awhile ago but was saving them for Christmas holidays), eating the aforementioned chocolate, and watching the best-of Friends DVDs Jason bought me. They are from the first four seasons, which is great because the utter sucktasticness of the last few seasons had erased from my memory that Friends used to be laugh-out-loud, laugh-so-hard-you-can't-breathe funny. It's great to watch those early shows again.

Most Fun With Other People: Yesterday going to see Charlotte's Web with Darryl, Cynthia and Brianna was fun (and we give the movie seven thumbs up!) ... but the overall prize has to go to playing 80s Trivia with Jennifer, David and Greg here last night. I was totally paid back for my earlier cockiness by being soundly defeated ... both David and Jason were way ahead of me for most of the game and Jason finally won. The good part was that we played till 1:30 and we were all completely exhausted so I was in that frame of mind when everything anyone says seems hysterically funny. I was literally weak with laughter. I hope everyone was as amused as I was by my bursting into song every time an 80s song I knew was the answer to one of the questions ... though perhaps they may not have been. (I was singing Heart's "Alone" when Greg asked, "Are your children exhibitionists too?" so possibly I may not have been as entertaining as I thought I was).

Tonight we're having our annual Open House, a celebration of randomness which consists of inviting everyone we know and waiting to see who shows up and how they all get along together. We invite a widely diverse group of people every year yet somehow always end up with the same crew sitting around the living room talking at 1:00 as the evening draws to a close ... we'll have to see if this year is any different!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Flesh (A Christmas Meditation)

Note: this is a blog rerun. I published this on my site in December 2004. But I still like what it says and it's just as relevant today, as I countdown the last hours to Christmas amid the chaotic blend of laughter, love, annoyance and apologies that makes up family life with two young children. It's good to be reminded of our imperfections sometimes, because in a way, imperfections are what the season is all about. Merry Christmas, everyone.

At this time of year we celebrate Incarnation: God taking on human flesh.

I dislike the word "flesh." I try to avoid using it. It's an unpleasant-sounding word, and I don't like its connotations. "Flesh" sounds flabby, raw, unhealthy.

It also has negative connotations in the spiritual realm. "Incarnation" comes from the same root as "carnal," the word St. Paul uses to describe the fallen, sinful tendencies of our human -- fleshly -- bodies.

The truth of Christmas is that Jesus came all this way to get a human body...but really, who the hell would want one? Human bodies are messy, flawed, fragile and inconvenient. They feel pain. Parts get injured and break. Human bodies overeat and get overweight ... or they don't get enough to eat and shrivel into starvation. Human bodies lead us into temptation. They get sexually aroused at inopportune times. Sometimes they fail to get aroused at opportune times. Human bodies inflict violence on other human bodies. We bleed. We make each other bleed. And if we somehow navigate all the pitfalls of the flesh, our bodies simply grow old and die.

Yet Christianity is not a dualistic religion in which "flesh" is simply bad and soul or spirit is simply good. The Bible teaches that God created our human bodies, cares for our human bodies, and will eventually resurrect and recreate our human bodies. Christianity goes a step farther than any other world religion and teaches that God not only values human bodies, God actually wears a human body. In the Incarnation Jesus took on our flesh -- our sinful, fallible, flawed flesh.

Flesh brings us down; flesh also lifts us to our finest hours. Only in human bodies can we know the bliss of union between lovers. Only in a human body can a woman share for a few months the experience of the Creator as she grows another human life inside her womb, pushes out into the world, then sustains and nourishes it with milk from her breast. Only in human bodies can we hold a child, a parent, a lover in our arms. Only with human bodies can we laugh and cry and kiss and taste and touch and participate completely in the world God created for us. And in human bodies--transformed and glorified--we will someday be raised to live eternally.

In this human flesh, fragile and fallen, the Son of God deigned to meet us on our own ground: to become a helpless human infant suckling a mother's breast; to be hungry and exhausted and weak; to bleed and to die.

Christmas in the secular world sometimes seems an inappropriate time for Christians to celebrate Christ's birth. It's hard to ponder the mystery of Incarnation in the midst of holiday specials and the shopping-days countdown and the flashing lights and Santa and Rudolph and Frosty and the Grinch. At Christmas our carnal nature shows its best -- the glowing face of a child opening a longed-for toy -- and its worst -- the vicious triumph of the mother who literally had to wrestle another shopper to the floor of Wal-Mart to rip the last Furby from her shaking fingers.

I have no doubt that the Christ who loves the poor and oppressed deplores the consumerism that runs rampant at Christmas. I have no doubt that He longs for each one of us to make this a simpler time, to lay aside stress and ridiculous expectations of the "perfect" holiday, to spend more time listening to Him and less time looking for replacement bulbs for the tree lights.

But I also believe that the God who was not too proud to lie in an animal's feed box in a barn, wrapped in the fragile flesh of an infant human body, is not too lofty to descend to meet us in the middle of our overpriced, overstressed, commercialized Christmas. He who did not refuse the company of cow and donkey does not exclaim, "Oh, how tacky!" when He sees His own image in the manger scene surrounded by Santa, Rudolph or Frosty. He descends into human flesh, into the carnality of Incarnation, and stoops to meet us in mangers and malls, in stables and supermarkets.

Christmas tells us that our God joins us in the experience of being human, having a human body. But Christmas is only Act I of the story. The grand finale, His resurrection, assures us that while He became truly human and experienced all humanity had to offer, the divine does not enter humanity and leave it unchanged. Jesus not only took on human flesh; He transformed human flesh. His resurrected body was recognizably human -- He walked, talked, ate, cooked fish with His friends -- but it was also far more than human, far more than the body that was born in the stable on Christmas Eve. God became human, and entirely transformed the experience of what it means to be human, to live within a human body.

So He is humble enough to meet us, this Christmas, in the check-out aisle of Canadian Tire as we realize with dread that the string of lights in our hand -the last string on the shelf --will not in fact connect to the three strings we already have at home. He will meet us in the overcrowded dining room as the uncle we haven't seen in twenty years asks embarrassing and inappropriate personal questions over a plate of turkey and dressing. He will meet us amid the stress, the shopping, the crowds and the ornaments and yes, even the blinking lights. He will meet us there, enter into the experience of human flesh, and, if we allow Him, He will transform our Christmas, our flesh, our humanity.

He's not too good for a stable; He's not too good for a human body, and He's not too good for Christmas. All He asks is that we meet Him there.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

On the Brink of Christmasness...

It's almost here! Lots of Christmassy stuff going on today -- almost, but not quite, enough to Make Mommy Lose It a few times, but still fun once I was able to step back and take those all-important Deep Breaths. Here's the cutest thing from today ... Emma with her Grampa singing "The Friendly Beasts" in church.

We also took the Adventurers (kids' group at church) carolling to the homes of some of the seniors in the church this afternoon ... the program had some organizational problems (like, I hadn't organized it well enough because I was relying on other people) but once we got going a good time was had by all. Here's a pic (no video this time though!)

Everywhere I go, people ask, "Ready for Christmas?" It's the standard conversation-starter on December 23. Well, there are always those few last-minute things to do, mostly optional ... but mostly, yeah. On every level (especially the level where we all get a week off school and work) I am very, very ready for Christmas!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Quest: The Sequel

In case you were wondering what a $10 tree chosen in two minutes in the dark looks like once it's decorated:

Gotta say that to me it looks pretty much the same as a $35 tree that we'd agonized over for an hour would look, if we brought it home and put all our lights and decorations on it. I'm not into "theme trees" (fine in someone else's house, if that's what you like; not in mine). My ideal tree is an eclectic collection of colourful lights and colourful ornaments we've acquired and loved over the years. The colourful lights used to be those old-fashioned glass indoor tree lights, the large ones, because I could never get into mini-lights on an indoor tree. I was finally prepared to consider a change the Christmas before last when the old-fashioned glass lights burned four neat holes in the arm of our couch, which was touching the tree.

Now we have the coloured LED lights, which I think look just as nice but stay cooler and are supposed to be more energy-efficient, so what's not to like about that?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Quest Completed

Hey look! It's the third week in Advent and the beginning of Hannukah! Because we can never have enough winter festivals that involve lighting things on fire ... we need to borrow some from other religions. (Next: The Yule Log).

OK, honestly, we don't celebrate Hannukah. But the kids learned about it in school and we did have this very nice menorah, and through a process too completed to explain right now I came into possession of some dreidls, so ... we decided to learn a little bit about it this weekend. We even spun the dreidl and played the game.

Meanwhile, back on the Nativity shelf ... it's getting crowded. Everybody's standing around as if they're expecting something to happen ... which, of course, is the whole point of Advent.

This has been a very Christmassy weekend so far. We did a Christmas-themed Children's Church program today, which as always involved a lot of preparation and work but was enjoyed by all, which makes it worth doing. This afternoon we were supposed to go carolling but got rained out -- our spirits may be Christmassy but the weather is not at all. This evening Jason and I took the kids on their annual Christmas shopping trip, where we split up into teams (boys vs girls) and power-shop for each other for about an hour, then meet up for hot chocolate at (where else?) Starbucks afterwards.

Following that, we went on a quest to find two trees -- inside and outside -- in the dark. With $20 in my back pocket. My need to pay no more than $10 for a fresh-cut Christmas tree has gone from being a preference to being a full-blown obsession. This year the cheap lots were harder to find and we drove around in the dark for some time while Jason (bless him for putting up with such a cheapskate for a wife) tried to gently talk me into the possibility that we might have to spent up to $15 for a tree.

Then I saw it ... the magical sign, spray-painted by hand on a piece of plywood in someone's front yard on Blackmarsh Road: "TREES $10." My joy knew no bounds. (It was actually a place we'd bought from in the past, and if we'd remembered it sooner we would have saved a lot of driving around.) After a gruelling two minutes spent selecting the perfect trees (I'm not picky, just cheap) Jason lashed them to the top of the van and we drove home, where he is even now stringing lights on the indoor tree while the children nestle all snug in their beds, looking forward to getting up and decorating the tree tomorrow.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Concert, The First

I am so fully in proud-Mama mode now that Christmas concert season has started, it's hard to get any sense out of me. We went to Chris' concert last night. His school has separate concerts for Grades 2-6 and Kindergarten/Gr. 1, so we get to do the concert thing twice this year. The tradition for the Grades 2-6 concert seems to be (based on two years of attending) that the Grade 6 Drama group does a musical play with backup from the Grades 4-6 choir, while the third-graders do a Nativity pageant that gets inserted somewhere into the play (no matter what the play's about). Christopher reprised the role of Joseph which he perfected back when he was in Kindergarten, and I don't mind saying that I thought he did a fabulous job. He has such a lovely clear voice both for singing and speaking, he learns lines effortlessly, he looks great in a Biblical costume ...

Oh, about the costume: for weeks Christopher had been bringing home notes from school saying that all Grade 3 boys needed to wear dark pants, a white turtleneck top, a bathrobe and a towel for their heads. I assembled this costume but noted that Christopher had no bathrobe that fit him anymore -- the only child's bathrobe we have is a Size 4 one that both Chris and Emma have worn and outgrown. Great opportunity to buy them both a new bathrobe! I thought, and ended up getting them at Sears where they were almost $25 each. (That's right, I spent $50 on new bathrobes, because you can't buy a new bathrobe for just one kid, can you?)

Then we arrived at school last night, Chris all decked out in costume, to be told by the teacher: "Oh, Chris doesn't need the bathrobe and towel. We have a special costume for Joseph. Didn't he tell you?" Um, no. But now he has a nice new bathrobe.

The accompanying picture is the best I could do with our camera at a distance ... it will give a sense of the occasion, albeit an out-of-focus sense. Expect a similarly gushy motherly post next week when we go to Emma's concert!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

10 x 10

Here it is. My 100th post. The burden of being meaningful and significant weighs heavily upon me.

Although there's no reason why it should, as no-one other than myself is likely to know it's my 100th, or attach any expectations to that. But, in the words of my favourite
Ashleigh Brilliant saying: "Lord, give me strength to meet this self-imposed and totally unnecessary challenge."

I have borrowed an idea I've seen here and there about the blogosphere and decided to commemorate Hypergraffiti's 100th post by posting 10 lists of my Top 10 ... whatever. The challenge will be to keep this short and pithy, and refrain from commenting on and explaining each list and each choice on each list at length. After all, I do want at least two or three people keep reading to the bottom of the post.

To begin:

List #1: 10 Books that Have Changed My Life (in roughly chronological order of reading)
I don't think I could do a list of "favourite" books because there are too many, so I'm trying to select those that have had the most profound impact on the person I've become and the way I see the world -- mostly fiction, but a few nonfiction have crept in there.
1. The Bible -- specifically the J.B. Philips translation of the New Testament

2. Kate, by Jean Little
3. Mindy, by June Strong
4. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis
5. Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers
6. The Last Convertible, by Anton Myrer
7. The Diviners, by Margaret Laurence
8. Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay
9. Gospel, by Wilton Barnhardt
10. The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions by N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg

List #2: 10 Movies I Would Gladly See Again and Again (in no particular order at all)
I'm sorry, I'm not a film buff, so none of these are "great films" by movie-people standards. Just mainstream Hollywood movies I have known and loved over the years.
1. The Princess Bride
2. Good Will Hunting
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
5. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
6. Crash
7. Galaxy Quest
8. Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail

9. Nothing in Common
10. The Sure Thing

List #3: 10 Days of My Life I'd Like to Relive (chronological order)
1. An afternoon at Hodgewater with my parents, late 70s, when we canoed over to the other side of Hodgewater Pond and saw a beaver lodge. The evening probably ended with my dad playing guitar and us singing by the fire in the cabin, so it would be a great day to relive.

2. Almost any Sabbath and Saturday night at Andrews University between 1983-1986. Even Saturday nights when I was breaking my heart because the guy I loved was out with some other girl ... I'd go back and relive those, too. I was growing up, I was with some of the best friends I've ever had, I was completely alive. Actually, I'd relive any day at Andrews, in a heartbeat, and change nothing.
3. Any day of the camping trip to Lake Simcoe in 1990 with Jamie, Ted, Jerry/Scott, Kirsten and Cathy.
4. The trip to Quebec City with Jason and the Pathfinders in 1991, but without getting violently stomach-sick (although re-living it that way would remove one of the most romantic moments of my life, when Jason carried my bag of vomit and I knew he was The One. Still would be nice to actually see Quebec City though).
5. August 1, 1995 -- the day Jason and I bought our house.
6. August 20, 1995 -- wedding day. Yes, it was fun and I would actually like to relive it -- we managed to make it fairly low-stress, and there were beautiful moments with family and friends.
7. January 24, 1998 -- about four days after Christopher was born. Those first days with a newborn were a little scary, but by the weekend the post-partum blues were gone, my milk had come in, and I relaxed and started to enjoy having my own little person to play with.
8. April 4, 2000 -- the day Emma was born. A much easier birth than Chris's, and I was much more prepared, so this was actually a great day, and I only spent about 4 hours of it in labour.
9. The day we spent tubing on a river in Tennessee, summer 2002
10. Any day on the houseboat in England, summer 2006. Preferably the day with the least locks.

List #4: 10 Dead People I'd Like to Have Lunch With (chronological order)
Comment: These could be ten separate lunches, but it also might be fun to group them. I'd like to have the first three at the table together, for example. All ten at once would be chaotic, though.

1. Jesus (OK, not strictly dead, as I do believe in the resurrection, but not readily available for lunch at the moment)
2. St. Paul (I have some questions for him)
3. Julian of Norwich
4. Queen Elizabeth I

5. Louis Riel
6. L.M. Montgomery
7. C.S. Lewis

8. Margaret Laurence
9. Peter Gzowski

10. Rich Mullins

List #5: 10 Living People I Might Actually Have Lunch With, but Haven't Had the Chance to For Awhile, or Ever
Friends who are far away, whom I haven't seen for years (and in one case haven't met at all except online). The first six are people I'm still in touch with; the last four I've lost touch with ... would love to sit down for lunch with each of these folks. No particular order to this list.
1. Kerry Schafer
2. Jamie Townsley
3. Catherine O'Brien Townsley
4. Sharon Fleshman
5. Katrina Stonoff

6. Linda Paulson Ramos
7. Roseanna Elton
8. Allan Paul
9. Grace Marks
10. Kurt Gillen

List #6: 10 Places I've Been Before That I'd Like to Visit Again
1. Dominica
2. Eastport, Newfoundland
3. London, England
4. Any portion of the Grand Union Canal, England
5. Florence
6. Venice
7. Athens
8. The place in Tennessee where we went tubing on the river
9. Brooklyn, New York

10. Williamsburg, Virginia

List #7: 10 Places I've Never Been That I'd Like to Visit
1. Hawaii
2. Rome
3. Anyplace in the South of France
4. Australia
5. Any South Pacific Island
6. Africa -- any part
7. India

8. New Orleans
9. The Alhambra
10. Egypt

List #8: 10 Songs I Would Put on the Only CD I Could Take to a Desert Island With Me

This is even tougher than the books. The criteria has to be songs I deeply love ... which could easily be 100 ... that I wouldn't get tired of. And each would have to carry some kind of message that would sustain me on my desert island. This is my best list, but I'm kicking myself for stuff I've left off.
1. John Cale, Hallelujah
2. Bruce Guthro, Walk This Road
3. Rich Mullins, Hold Me Jesus
4. Bruce Springsteen, The River
5. Lone Justice, The Gift
6. Fernando Ortega & Amy Grant, I Will Arise and Go to Jesus
7. Bob Seger, Against the Wind

8. Great Big Sea, A Boat Like Gideon Brown
9. Garth Brooks, The Dance
10. Steve Taylor, The Finish Line

List #9: 10 Items of Clothing I Have Loved

This is tough for a different reason -- unlike the books and the songs, I'm hardpressed to think of 10 items of clothing I've really loved. But the very few things I've ever really liked, I have liked a lot.
1. The corduroy skirt I'm wearing in my Grade Five school picture.
2. The pink-and-blue striped rugby-style sweatshirt, 1985.
3. Same style sweatshirt, peach and gray stripes, circa 1990.
4. Light denim jacket with floral insets on the shoulders, 1987-1997, probably.
5. Peach lace snakers bought in Oshawa in 1986 after a very depressing day teaching.
6. Bright red, very short dress with gold buttons bought at Fairweather in St. John's in 1990, which never looked as good on me as I thought it should but which I loved anyway.
7. Black and floral-print dress worn in Alberta in 1992 (and for some years after).
8. Cream-coloured slip dress with tapestry jacket, also worn in Alberta 1992 and for years afterwards.
9. Second-hand brown leather jacket bought three years ago at Previously Loved.
10. Riders mid-rise jeans from WalMart, size 12L, which I am wearing at this very moment. Most comfortable jeans I've ever owned, and the cheapest too -- I own three identical pairs, and if WalMart stops carrying them my life is pretty much over.

List #10: 10 People Who Have Influenced Me, Excluding the Obvious
This is another difficult list, as is any list that names individuals (i.e., I wouldn't list "My Ten Best Friends" for fear of hurting my eleventh and twelfth-best friends, and who really ranks their friends anyway?). I'm going for mentor-type connections here, people I have sort of looked up to, but I am excluding my Mom, Dad and Aunt Gertie because it goes without saying that your immediate family should get a free pass -- obviously all that I am or hope to be I owe to those three people. Ten others (there are far more than ten) who helped make me The Woman I Am Today...
1. Bernice Morgan, my aunt
2. Joyce Griffiths, Grade 4 teacher
3. John Janes, Jr., high school history teacher
4. Mary Barry, 1st year university professor at MUN
5. Valerie Phillips, women's dorm dean at Andrews
6. Meredith Jones, English professor at Andrews
7. Bruce Ronk, likewise, and also my boss for 2 years when I worked as a student in the English Dept.
8. Penny Estes Wheeler, my first editor at R&H and lifelong encourager
9. Glenda-Mae Greene, registrar at Kingsway College where I first taught
10. Ann McCann, on-site supervisor for my counselling internship and now my co-worker & friend.

That's it, folks. Now you know 100 things that are important to me. I've kept it as succinct as I can (which, as always, is not very) and if you require any clarification, or you want to say "Hey, me too!" or "You like that? Ick!" please put your comments ... well, in the comments.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sometimes it's not that I have nothing to say...

...it's having too much to say, that holds me back from blogging. As with this week.

Not that I had anything signficant or meaningful to say. Just a bunch of small things cluttering the surface of my mind, as envelopes and papers might (and, indeed, do) clutter the surface of my desk. Also, I had some pictures I wanted to post and didn't get around to until tonight, so I'm sorry ... I've been a slow blogger this week. I'm always frustrated when people don't update regularly enough, but this week, I'm one of those people. I can't even claim to be busy because this week was MUCH less busy than those weeks in November when I was NaNo-ing. Just didn't get around to it.

One thing I did get around to, though it's still a work in progress, was updating
Compulsive Overreader with reviews of the books I've read over the past month or two but didn't have time to review. I've added a few new ones, and will be adding more over the next few days, so check it out!

Jason also got around to something this week. It involved bathroom repair. We have this bathroom that has been the bane of our existence since we bought our 60-year-old house eleven years ago. The bathroom is the only room we haven't redecorated -- it still has the shabby, peeling heinous blood-red paint that so horrified us when we moved in, we thought it was going to be the first thing we'd fix. Problem with the bathroom is that the things we need to change, and our visions of how we'd like that room to look, are so extensive that we can't touch one thing without the whole project unravelling into something that, frankly, we can't afford right now. So we've done nothing about it (except complain of course).

One of the few fixtures we like in the bathroom is a lovely old-fashioned pedestal sink. Unfortunately this sink was also cursed with unlovely old-fashioned separate taps, so that we could only get very cold or very hot water, and we were never able to mix them to an appropriate warm temperature for hand-washing. We agreed that "someday" we would get attractive taps that would look good with our basin and meet in the middle with a single spigot ... but it's taken 11 years to get to that point. A few weeks ago one of the taps was dripping and Jason said as long as he was going to fix it, why not get the taps we've always wanted? So with much grunting, muttering and hacksawing last night, he got the old taps off and the new ones installed. You can see from the photo how badly the wall behind the sink is in need of paint, but at least we were able to get this one, small manageable project done, and I'm happy as a clam with our new taps.

Emma got around to something this week -- she finally lost her second front tooth which has been dangling for the longest time. Sadly, the catalyst for this tooth loss was that she got hit in the face by a tetherball at school, but it did the trick -- later that night her tooth came out. I have always wanted a child with two front teeth out at the same time ... and to have it happen at Christmas so I can sing that annoying song to her over and over again ... well, it's just a gift.

Here's a picture. She's a lot cuter than the sink.

Speaking of kids, we had parent-teacher meetings this week. Apparently both kids are doing well at school. In fact, in one case, the teacher seems to be eliciting much better behavior from the child than we are getting at home, which is ... humbling, I guess. I mean, I wish we could get the same sunny disposition and ready obedience at home that this child appears to be producing at school, but at the same time, I don't underestimate how lucky I am to have kids who are doing OK in school both academically and socially. I know that that's a blessing not to be taken lightly.

Something I wanted to put a picture of in here today was the old white coffee table that I hauled into my office at work this week, because today it underwent an artistic transformation and that deserves to be documented. But that picture and story will have to be saved for another day, because I forgot to bring my camera to work today. I will, however, tell you a story that is sort of about work:

Last night I dreamed that I was -- pretty much where I was two years ago. I mean, I was in the same position in my dream that I was then -- I was a former teacher who had been staying at home, raising kids and freelance writing, for seven years, and I had just completed a Master's in Counselling Psychology. In the dream I was trying to figure out what to do next, career-wise. I had the option of staying home to write full-time while the kids were in school, but I knew that wasn't what I really wanted. I was offered several jobs in my dream (unlike in real life) -- one was an academic position, and I knew that that wasn't the life I wanted to pursue. Then there was a position in a school, either teacher or guidance counsellor, and I remember thinking, "This isn't right either." In the dream I had a lost feeling, wandering around rejecting options, not knowing what I wanted but just knowing that nothing felt right, that somewhere out there was a missing piece.

Then I woke up and my first thought was, "I have a job. I work at The Murphy Centre."

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you dream the person you love most is dead or gone from you, and in your dream you experience terror and grief and loss, and then you wake to find that person lying safe in bed next to you? And you're overwhelmed with relief and joy at your real life? I've had those dreams. And I have to say that waking up this morning, after the dream I had, and remembering where I worked was almost that good a feeling. The feeling that I've found my missing piece.

It's a funny old world where you have to feel apologetic about being happy and content, but sometimes I do feel that way, just because so many people (including many of those I love) aren't so happy and content with their lives. But I do have to pause and give thanks now and then for being the luckiest, or most blessed (pick your theology) woman I can imagine being.

This is my 99th blog post. I am trying to think of something cool to do for my 100th. Watch this space for developments.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Society of Strident Women

Today I threw myself a little small party to celebrate finishing (yes, actually finishing) the draft of my NaNovel. I invited five literary women friends for coffee at Starbucks/Chapters, also known as the Sacred Temple to the Triune Goddesses of Coffee, Chocolate and Books. Since I probably wrote about 50K of my 80K total wordcount at Chapters, it seemed appropriate to celebrate there.

Gathered for the event were: Natalie (also a NaNo winner), Lori, Tina, Jennifer, and Christine who sweetly brought my flowers to celebrate. I hand-picked all these friends, even though they didn't all know each other, as the women writers I'd most like to party with, and as a group we clicked so well that we enjoyed two solid hours of non-stop conversation about books, plays, work, feminism, and husbands who don't socialize on their own. We have already discussed the possibility of meeting on a regular basis under the name (suggested by Lori) "Society of Strident Women."

Thanks to all the lovely strident women for making my post-NaNo party so much fun! And thanks to the Starbucks patron otherwise known as Table Guy for giving us his extra chair, then his table, and finally for taking our pictures!

Just a reminder to all my lovely readers: Blogs are like little flowers. Just as little flowers need sunshine and rain to flourish, blogs need comments (because bloggers are emotionally needy people who demand constant feedback to validate their own existance). Isn't it sad if a little flower withers and dies because it doesn't get enough sun and rain? Don't let a little flower die ... don't let a little blog wither and perish. Leave a comment ...

Saturday, December 02, 2006


November is over, NaNoWriMo is over. Christmas is three weeks away.

Thank God it's Advent.

I won't take up space here on my blog with a length digression into why a good Adventist girl like me observes the seasons of the liturgical year -- if you have the faintest semblance of curiosity about that, read
this article I wrote on the subject (for which I never got paid the amount promised, but that's OK, because writing it was a useful clarifying experience for me).

Let's just say that I like the idea of rhythms in time, rhythms and seasons that help to shape my spiritual, personal and family life.

I probably started observing Advent about the same time I started doing NaNoWriMo -- perhaps not a coincidence. November is already a busy month, even more so if you add writing 50,000+ words of fiction into the mix. I like to get Christmas shopping done before the end of November to avoid the madness of Retail Christmas in the stores and malls. If I want to remove myself from the hectic Santanic pace of the December shopping frenzy then it helps to get these chores out of the way early, so I can enjoy lots of quality time at home by the fireplace in December.

Also, these last two years I have found November to be an emotionally tiring month at work. Our students start in September with high hopes and good intentions, but by late October the same issues that kept them from finishing high school in the first place are beginning to reassert themselves and November sees a lot of them struggling with attendance, struggling to stay in school, dealing with problems that sometimes seem overwhelming even to me. November, for various reasons, requires a lot of me.

I also end up sacrificing a lot of sensible things in November -- things like enough sleep, exercise, and prayer. Part of the discipline of Advent, for me, is re-introducing those things into my life.

Mostly, though, Advent is about waiting, and I am trying to practice it at home so that the children will have a chance of learning that some things are worth waiting for -- not just presents under the tree on Christmas morning, but the incarnational Presence of Christ in our world and in our lives.

On Friday night we lit the first candle in our Advent wreath. The animals from our Nativity scene were hidden around the room and placed on their shelf as the children found them (Christopher told me they weren't hidden well enough, so I will have to do better with the shepherds next weekend). Gradually, we begin to move towards Christmas and its season of celebration. Now we are in Advent, which (ideally) is a time of silence, and simplicity, and waiting.

It's impossible to really keep it that way, of course, in a world dedicated to the belief that Christmas is a hopping, shopping, non-stopping frenzy that begins the day after Hallowe'en. Even I, as you saw from my last blog, bow to the necessity of decorating the workplace for Christmas on December 1. Retail Christmas is the reality of our society and it can't be entirely denied or ignored.

But I can try. While I clear away the shelves that hold the Advent wreath and the Nativity scene, I can clear away little spaces in the corners of my life, for this short reflective season between the busyness of November and the bustle of Christmas. Lighting the first Advent candle always makes me happy, makes me feel a sense of quiet which is badly needed in my busy life.

Whatever and however you celebrate in December, I hope it will be a time when busyness is at least equally balanced with peace, joy and hopeful expectation in your home.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Decorating Day

Today was our annual Decorating Day at school, where we suspend classes and decorate the building. It was a very different experience than it's been during the previous two Christmases I've been there. First, we're now decorating a long, institutional-style hallway with classrooms on either side rather than a beautiful but cavernous three-story building -- that requires some changes to decorating style.

The bigger change, though, was in how we promoted it. I don't know how The Murphy Centre has done Decorating Day in past years but during the last two years we sprang it on students as a surprise, only telling them when they arrived that morning that classes were cancelled. Our students' attendance is so bad anyway that we figured advance warning would lead to almost no-one showing up for a non-required extracurricular day.

The "Surprise, it's Decorating Day!" approach led to one of three responses:

1) People arriving who were anxious to get some work done, getting very angry because they'd come "for nothing."

2) People arriving and immediately leaving because, "Hey, we've got the day off!"

3) A handful of eager people -- three or four -- staying to help the staff decorate.

This year we decided to be a little more true to our philosophy of empowerment, dignity and respect, and warn people in advance. But we tried to make it as attractive as possible with a personal hand-delivered invitation for each student and promises of hot chocolate and pizza for lunch for those who came to help.

This year's strategy was a great success. We ended up with a crew of about 15 students who really wanted to help decorate and were enthused and having fun. There was a great spirit and the place looked terrific by lunchtime. And I did my usual Decorating Day routine of wandering vaguely from place to place watching and commenting on what people were doing, trying to vary my movements enough that nobody would notice I was doing no actual decorating. I love the Christmassy mood and team spirit of Decorating Day -- I just don't like the actual work part, with stringing the lights and hanging things up.