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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

BNL Rocks My World!!

Last night Jason and I went with David and Jennifer to see the Barenaked Ladies on the last night of their cross-Canada tour. I haven't seen BNL live since about 92, whenever it was they were here for their "Gordon" tour. That was an amazing concert experience because we were in the second row at the Arts and Culture Centre and it was so intimate, it felt like having BNL in the living room. Last night's concert was not as amazing as that, but was still quite an impressive show!

Barenaked Ladies are unique in the category of Bands I Like since they are the only mainstream pop band that debuted later than 1990 that I truly enjoy -- my appreciation for pop music mostly ended with the 80s, but BNL has managed to transcend that. Their career has had ups and downs over the last 15 years or so -- there were times we hoped to catch them in concert and their tour was cancelled because they were doing so badly they couldn't afford to come to Newfoundland; there were times they came here and we were doing so badly we couldn't afford to go see them! So last night was like a conjunction of the planets: BNL are riding high and so are we.

Sometimes when you go to a concert for a band you've liked for years it's frustrating because they don't do a lot of their old stuff and you don't really know or care about the new stuff. This wasn't like that -- they did lots of old stuff, going right back to "Gordon" -- we heard "Yoko Ono" and a few others from that first album, and of course they finished with "If I Had a Million Dollars" for an encore. I also really liked most of the new songs even though I hadn't heard them yet. BNL continues to be the most lyrically interesting band I know, an amazing mix of cynicism and innocence, irony and sweetness. I'm not qualified to tell you if they're musically interesting but they're certainly musically enjoyable, to me anyway, so the concert was a total success.

I don't think I've ever been to a concert that had so many Good Causes associated with it -- we were hit up for money for the food bank before we got through the door; there was a table from WorldVision encouraging child sponsorship in developing countries; there was another table featuring eco-friendly products and information from Barenaked Planet (along with some scary laminated pages informing us that virtually everything we'd ever considered putting on or in our bodies was bad for us!) The earnestness was somewhat balanced by the on-stage end-of-tour hijinks, which included three of the Ladies coming out during the opening act wearing only towels and flashing Tomi Swick and his band (they didn't flash the audience, but a friend who was sitting close to the front confirmed that the Barenaked Ones were true to their name!) Lots of laughs and great music, although it will never equal the thrill of sitting in the second row at the ACC in 92 and feeling like I was One With the Band.

Oh! And more excitement today! A local radio station, Coast 101.1, has a brainteaser question every morning called the Coast Conundrum. I always listen on the way to work, always try to figure out the answer, and often try to call in without success. I'm particularly cheesed off when someone calls in, has no idea what the right answer is, and they give them the prize "just for playing!" This morning I knew the answer, I called, and I got through! I got on the air, won the prize, and the DJs told me I Was Smart. (My student Vince, whom I drive to school, was in the car next to me yelling, "Yeah she's smart!" in the background -- and no, by the way, I didn't call while driving, I called while parked in front of my kids' school after dropping them off).

So hey, it's an all-round good day and it would take something pretty drastic to bring me down right now. Let's hope we don't get anything drastic happening today.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Radio KFKD

In Anne Lamott's wonderful book on writing, Bird by Bird, she talks about Radio KFKD, the radio station that streams two channels of self-talk into a writer's head, non-stop, 24/7. The channel playing in one ear is constant self-aggrandizement: how wonderful, how talented, how brilliant I am. My version of this channel includes numerous clips from my imaginary interviews with Shelagh Rogers. Then in the other ear is playing a constant stream of bitter self-doubt: how I'm a talentless, worthless hack and nobody will ever read or enjoy my writing.

Like most writers, I am familiar with both channels of KFKD. Lately, I have been hearing a lot of the negative channel ... because I'm in kind of a stuck place now, not as regards writing itself, but in the areas of getting work published, and promoting the things I do have published. This winter I've had long stretches of feeling like it's futile; there are so many better writers out there with more interesting things to say, and even though I can never stop writing, perhaps I should give up on the fantasy of ever being read.

Today I brought the opening chapter -- prologue actually -- for the next novel I want to work on, to a workshop with my writing group, the Newfoundland Writers' Guild. It was very affirming because, although I got some critique, I got mostly just positive vibes -- everyone enjoyed it, laughed in all the right places, insisted they wanted to read more. So I left listening to the other channel for a change -- how great I am, how wonderful my writing is, and I am all buoyed up to do more with this new project.

And yet ... the doubts are still there, chattering away in my other ear. I wish I could silence them. I believe success will silence that channel forever, but I know from experience that it won't. Are there any writers who ever achieve a healthy balance between the two channels, a realistic assessment of the value of their own work? I'd like to believe it, but if it's possible, well ... I'm just not there yet!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Everybody's Got a Water Buffalo ...

...as the good old Veggie Tales song goes. Well, probably not everybody. But now we have one. Although with all the snow in the backyard (another 10 - 15 cm last night) I don't know where the heck we're going to put it.

Fortunately, a nice family of subsistence farmers in Asia has agreed to keep it for us, and apparently it will be a lot more useful to them than to us. It's only going to be useful around here if it can be trained to wash dishes, since we bought it to replace our dishwasher.

I see I have some explaining to do. Relax, take a deep breath. Enjoy the picture of the happy Asian subsistence farmers and their water buffalo.

I may have mentioned that our dishwasher gave up washing dishes for Lent. We have never actually bought a dishwasher; our current model came to us as the second of two used hand-me-down models. I'd always felt that a dishwasher was a bit of an extravagance, but if God was just going to arrange for someone to give us one for nothing, we'd take it.

Understandably, what with two kids and two working parents, we have gotten a bit dependent on the dishwasher and so when the latest El Cheapo (well, El Freebo, actually) broke down and Jason couldn't fix it this time, he said, "Maybe it's time we actually bought an inexpensive new dishwasher." And we added this item to our household budget.

But then Lent hit, and in addition to giving up chocolate for Lent, I also give up reading fiction. Not because fiction is A Bad Thing (it's a very, very good thing!) but because I'm such an avid fiction reader that I rarely make time for non-fiction. So during Lent, I immerse myself in a pile of spiritual/theological type nonfiction books that I would never get around to otherwise. And this year, right there on the top of the Lenten pile, was Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution, a great book that challenges Christians to live more simply and sacrificially in order to share with the poor (that's a very brief summary. My full review of the book is here, and you are cordially invited to meander through my Lenten reading list with me as I read and review the books over at Compulsive Overreader).

Jason started the book right after I finished it, and he is enjoying it to, so he understood where I was coming from when I said, "What if we don't buy a new dishwasher, and give the money to the poor instead?"

"We could do that..." he said a bit hesitantly.

Reminded of Shane Claiborne's principles about living in community with others rather than giving arms'-length charity, I suggested, "Maybe the poor could come over and wash our dishes sometimes."

In the end, however, we did opt for arms' length, but really useful, charity, because I went to the Heifer International gift catalogue and discovered that a water buffalo costs about the same as a cheap dishwasher. I will confess that I didn't research this gift very thoroughly; I picked it because a) I trust the people at Heifer a lot, and b) it sounds so incredibly cool to say we bought a water buffalo to replace our dishwasher. Only I shouldnt' tell people that, because of Jesus' whole thing about keeping it a big secret when you do good things -- oops. Here I am blogging about it. Today was a good day for charity but a bad day for humility. But maybe I can inspire someone out there to buy 1/10 of a goat instead of a take-out pizza, or to make some other small sacrifice that might make your life simpler and someone else's better.

I will say that we have not ruled out the idea of buying a dishwasher as well as a water buffalo. If the burden of washing by hand becomes overwhelming I will take it as a sign that God is going to send us either a) another free dishwasher or b) more money. But for now, we just have this buffalo.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Good Day, Good Cause, Good Film

Yesterday was A Very Good Day for me, primarily because I got to do two things I really wanted to do, that were not directly related to either family or work, and that I didn't think I was going to get time for.

I had been looking forward to going to the Raising the Roof Pancake Day Breakfast, which was supposed to be held on Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday... pancakes ... you see?). It's an annual event which is hosted and aired live by the CBC Morning Show, and which provides a nice pancake breakfast for $5 with all benefits going to organizations that help people find affordable housing here in St. John's -- organizations such as Choices for Youth (which is very near to my heart because several of our students are also Choices clients); the Stella Burry Foundation, the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, etc. Pancakes, live entertainment, and the chance to support good causes -- what's not to like about that?

The breakfast was postponed to Thursday because of the storm on Tuesday, and I wanted to go Thursday morning but with Christopher still home sick from school and all the other complications of morning with work and children, I didn't think I could make it. But at 7:15, as I was listening to the live show on the radio and explaining to Emma what was going on, she said, "Let's let Dad stay home with Chris and we'll go!" Which we did. We had to hurry and couldn't linger long over our pancakes because Emma had to get to school and I to work, but we enjoyed being at an event that has such great community spirit. Plus, two of my students who are also Choices clients performed -- reading poetry, rapping, reading a scene from a play -- so I was glad to be there to be able to support them and tell them they did a great job.

Then in the evening, right about suppertime, I happened to be on the MUN website and noticed that the MUN cinema series was showing the movie Half Nelson, which I have been wanting to see for ages but which never came out in the theatres here (it's on DVD now, but I really wanted to see it on the big screen). On the spur of the moment, with no-one to go with and not even sure I could make it on time because Jason was out doing messages and I didn't know when he'd be back, I decided to try to go see it. I just barely made it in time, and I'm so glad I did because it was an amazing movie.

I was almost happier that I went alone because it was a movie that I wanted some time to absorb, and I'm not sure I would have been ready to answer, "How did you like it?" on the way out of the theatre. It's powerful, aborbing, very well-written and acted, disturbing and thought-provoking. It starts out as if it's going to be a typical inspiring-young-teacher-in-an-inner-city-school movie, but it's very not that, becuause the inspiring young teacher, played by Ryan Gosling, is also a drug addict, and his 13-year-old student, Drey (Shareeka Epps) shares his secret after she finds him smoking crack in a school bathroom. The powerful friendship that unfolds between the two of them is the most interesting depiction of a teacher-student relationship that I've ever seen onscreen, or in a book for that matter. The story doesn't veer into the obvious territory of sexual exploitation, but it does depict a relationship that's inappropriate, difficult, and real -- portrayed by two actors who completely inhabit the roles.
I am so not a film buff, and I really don't watch a lot of indie films. Frankly, I could do without the indie-film standbys of handheld ShakyCam, extreme closeups, and things being out of focus. I watch a great film like Half Nelson and I wonder, "Why can't we have the brilliant writing and acting, the thought-provoking themes, the realistic moral ambiguity -- and also be able to see everything clearly, just like in a Hollywood movie?" Guess I just will never understand cinematography.

ShakyCam and all, Half Nelson is a must-see for anyone who likes thought-provoking movies and who doesn't mind a fair dose of sex, drugs and language (not much sex, but a bit -- and a lot of drug use). The ending is not despairing or hopeless, but it's also not "heartwarming and inspiring" in an obvious Hollywood way. It never takes the easy way out, but dives right into the messy reality of life. I'm so glad I managed to squeeze two hours into the frozen landscape of this week to catch this movie on the one and only night of its big-screen release in St. John's!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday: Come Dancing

It's Ash Wednesday; the beginning of Lent, which is an important date in my personal calendar, though not in the calendar of my church. If you're interested in a more nuanced discussion of why a nice Adventist girl (OK, relatively nice) observes Lent, you may read an article I wrote about it here. I'll avoid repeating myself and simply say that I have observed the pentitential season of Lent as a private spiritual practice for about five years now, and for me it lends a lot of meaning to an otherwise bleak and gloomy season of the year.

So today that season of reflection, repentance and resolution begins. Begins with Christopher saying he's still not well enough to go to school, and me making arrangements for my parents to take him. Then backing out of the driveway, which is now like a tunnel with the massive piles of snow on every side -- imagine backing out of a garage that opens directly onto the street. Driving to work through streets that are barely wide enough for one car to pass, much less two.

After work it was worse, and I was hurried and cranky, trying to get some messages done and get the kids picked up and back home in time for Adventurers at 6:30 (that's the kids' club at church, which we are in charge of). The kids and I didn't get home till 5:15, only to find our driveway had been filled in again by the plough. The nearest sidestreet was now too narrow to park on, so I had to park down the road at the garage and walk three doors up to our house, with the kids and groceries, dodging traffic all the way. I was almost ready to cry with frustration.

We decided to call around and cancel Adventurers last-minute because it was just so difficult getting around, and that lifted my mood a little, as I knew I didn't have to rush to get supper. Still, the hectic afternoon had taken its toll on me, as I unpacked the groceries and realized I had bought ground beef, parmesan cheese, foccaccia -- all with the thought of having spaghetti for supper -- but had neglected to buy either spaghetti or sauce, thinking I had them both in the house. I didn't.

It's at moments like these that a handful of chocolate chips can do a world of good in soothing my cranky and irritable soul. Only, I'd given up chocolate for Lent, just so that I could grow spiritually by turning to God instead of Hershey's for consolation in moments like this. This was starting to seem like a bad idea.

I pulled my boots back on (Jason was home by this time) and slogged up to the corner store to get the necessary items. (The spaghetti and sauce, not the chocolate). Despite the rough going underfoot it was a beautiful evening, with a sky in such rich and incredible shades of blue I thought I would like to own a dress, or a crayon, or a painted wall in a colour called "February Twilight." I took a deep breath and thought how petty my little troubles are. I bitch and whine and moan about these dark cold weeks of winter, when some people live in a perpetual Lenten winter of real and painful troubles.

I could list dozens of people I know who are living with depression, divorce, abuse, addiction, pain, poverty, and children sick with things far more serious than colds. Not one of these things has touched my life and as I trudged through the snowy February twilight I remembered again how incredibly lucky/blessed (take your pick) I am.

Back in the kitchen, I put spaghetti on to boil and turned up my 80's Favourites CD while I washed a few dishes from the pile on the counter (did I mention that our dishwasher gave up washing dishes for Lent?) I was feeling OK by the time we hit one of my absolute favourite songs ever, a song I cannot be unhappy or cranky during: The Kinks' "Come Dancing." That song just makes me want to lay down every burden and dance.

Right on cue, as the first bars of the song played, Emma danced into the kitchen, holding out her hands for me to dance with her, and I did. In the dark window I saw a reflection of me holding my little girl, dancing together to a song we both love. I was almost ready to cry again -- not from frustration but from joy and gratitude.

I'd like to say I remained in a beatific state all evening, but later I was impatient and frustrated and cranky again, although still joyous and grateful underneath it all. That's why I need a penitential season. The sins I have to confess are not very impressive -- not the stuff of testimony meetings of "Unshackled!" episodes. I am ungrateful, impatient, short-tempered, self-absorbed and I complain too much. But I think I will get a T-shirt or a bumper sticker made that says:

Jesus Didn't Just Die for the Winos
He Died for the Whiners Too.

If you observe Lent, a blessed one to you. And if not, just get out and enjoy the February twilight, or better yet, come dancing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Big One

This is it. Today was the Big One -- the snowstorm we've been waiting all winter for.

Not eagerly anticipating, exactly -- just waiting as you wait for the inevitable. We've had several storms, to the point where our backyard was like a giant bowl brimful of snow and the piles of snow on either side of our driveway were so high you could barely see to back out even when driving the van, much less in a car (which is hair-raising, because we live on a very busy road). School has already been closed twice before due to weather. So it's not like we've had an easy winter, by Newfoundland standards or anyone else's standards.

But all the storms we've had have been paltry little things dumping no more than 10-15 cm of snow at a time. We haven't had a truly big, pull-out-all-the-stops snowfall, a blizzard of epic proportions where everything is shut down and nobody bothers going outside.

Well, not until last night. We got some snow Sunday night, with lots more predicted for Monday night, and by suppertime Monday it was coming down in full force with howling winds behind it. The storm continued unabated throughout the night and this morning, with the total snowfall since Sunday totalling about 50 cm.

Needless to say we spent most of the day lazing about indoors. Christopher is feeling better, so the snowday worked out well for him -- an additional day at home to recover without having to miss another day of school (or work, for either parent). Jason has been bravely attacking the snow with shovel in hand for the last few hours (see picture above) although it's still not all gone.

I'm sure my fellow Newfoundlanders will have their own battle stories to tell and pictures to post. As for those of you living in warmer climes ... think of us and smile.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tough Call, Again

This morning Christopher started complaining of a headache and stomachache just before we left for school. Again with those sick-kid decisions -- when to stay home? when to send him to school?

I took him to school and told him to give it a try, maybe he'd feel better soon. I knew he wasn't just being a little third-grade slacker because his best friend was back today from two weeks in Florida (don't get me started on the envy!) and Christopher really wanted to be in school to see him.

So when he called me at work at 9:35 to say he was really miserable and wanted to come home, I knew he was serious.

At the time, I was writing notes on Chapter Nine of Lord of the Flies (Simon gets killed! Oh, sorry, did I spoil it for you?) on the board for my English 2201 class. I quickly finished the notes, checked in with Boss Tim, and wrote assignments on the board for the rest of my classes. (That's the joy of teaching in adult ed ... no dealing with messy substitutes; just leave work for your mature, self-directed students to complete on their own. Or, you know, NOT!!)

As I explained the sitch to my student their eyes grew misty with nostalgic remeniscences. "Yeah, I used to hate that, when I said I was sick and Mom would say, Go to school anyway! You'll feel better soon!"

"Or when I'd say I was sick to my stomach and she'd say, Eat your breakfast! It'll get better!" ... a line I had used this very morning.

I explained to them that from the parental side of the line the decision of what warrants a sick day was not always as straightforward as it might seem. Then I drove back to Chris's school to get my pale, sad-looking little boy.

He's sleeping now, and anytime Christopher voluntarily goes to sleep, you can pretty much bet he's sick. I'm using the time to try to catch up on some writing and reading. Making the sick-day call can be one of the tougher roles in parenting, but there's no doubt whatsoever that this is a sick little boy:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Recitals Ate My Weekend

This past Sunday, with tremendous patience and forbearance and love of our children, my family (me, Jason and my parents) sat through not one but two music recitals -- one for piano students, one for violin students -- in which our precious darlings performed. That's two solid hours of children's music recitals, plus an hour of downtime waiting in between when it wasn't worth going back home -- for the total two minutes or so that our kids were onstage.

Yes, it was worth it. It was Emma's first-ever recital and she did a great job. Christopher also did well on the violin, accompanied by his Grampa. Christopher's greatest accomplishment, however, was to keep me laughing (quietly) throughout the whole of the piano recital. It's a requirement for me that in any potentially boring situation (classes, meetings, workshops, etc) I have to have someone sitting next to me who can send and receive sarcastic remarks to keep me amused. I am so pleased my son is growing up to be one such person.

I'll just give you a couple of samples of his commentary. There's a little girl who takes music from his teacher, a couple of years older than Chris, named Jasmine. Besides being amazingly talented on both violin and piano, Jasmine is also poised, self-assured and charming. When she got up to announce her first piano piece, she informed us all that the piece was by "Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsy," with lovely enunciation.

Christopher looked at me. "THE Tchaikovsky?" he said. I nodded.

"Nutcracker?" he asked. Again I nodded.

He rolled his eyes. "Well, she may know how to say his name, but I know everything about him," he commented as Jasmine began to play.

Later in the concert, this same Jasmine got up to announce her last piece, and again spoke with tremendous clarity and poise. Christopher gave me another sideways glance. "You think she's awfully clever, don't you?" he asked.

For those of you who are into this sort of thing, here are videos of the kids' two performances.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mommy Olympics: The Qualifying Heats

Part of my parenting philosophy is to try not to view motherhood as a competitive sport. I know there are moms who complain about other moms competing in the "Mommy Olympics," going above and beyond the call of duty to do all sorts of extras with their offspring that make the rest of us feel inferior.

My attitude is that we are all going to excel in some areas of parenting, because we all have things we do well and enjoy. So if someone else is a little more into doing crafts with their kids, I try to remember that I probably read more books with my kids, and it all balances out. I try not to find other parents' accomplishments threatening, and assume that no-one is threatened my mine.

It's unlikely anyone is threatened by me. Most of the time, I'm doing well to keep up with the basics of parenting, much less the competitive events. This is especially true since I went back to work and the kids started school. I think of myself as a well-organized person -- at work I'm almost fanatically organized -- but my organization skills are not up to the task of having two children in elementary school. I write everything down, but even then it's a challenge to keep up with which homework is due on what day, which papers I have to sign and send back, what milk money they have to bring, which days are school lunch days, which days are pizza, which are ice cream, and what I have to pack for each. Not to mention the clothing issues attached to gym days and swim days. Any morning my kids go out the door with the right homework, money and attire is a gold-medal day in my books.

But just to keep us parents on our toes, schools like to throw in some extra-special themes and projects. This week we had lots and lots of special events. It is, of course, Valentine's Day on Wednesday, which means child-signed Valentine cards for each kid in the class. Here is one area where I do find Mommy-Olympic resentment creeping in a little, because I know my children will come home tomorrow with not just a bagful of Valentine cards, but also three or four little extras--candies or cookies or little bags of treats wrapped in pink lace with ribbons -- from moms who just had to go that extra mile. Each little foil-wrapped chocolate seems like a silent reproach: "What, you only sent them with cards?"

Of course it's not enough that it's Valentine's, oh no. It's also Teacher Appreciation Week; parents were encouraged to bring desserts to school for teachers to enjoy in the staffroom. The lower grades also celebrate the 100th day of school, which falls right before Valentine's Day. This year Emma's class had to fill out a booklet about the number 100, and each child had to make a poster of 100 objects (we did macaroni, and Emma, of her own volition, wrote a little poem to go inside a macaroni frame -- which some other mother might interpret as being over-the-top on my part, but it was entirely her idea). Finally, there was an optional activity -- children could decorate a 100th-day themed T-shirt.

Normally anything "optional" falls right off my radar. This time, however, by an incredible freak of nature that had nothing to do with any awareness on my part, I had in my possession not only a plain white child's T-shirt, but also two packages of fabric markers. So last night Emma and I sat down and decorated a T-shirt, and while she did the lion's share of the work I made a batch of brownies to send to school

She was quite proud of her T-shirt and looked extremely cute in it. It was probably my one and only time ever qualifying for an event in the Mommy Olympics, and I'd like to say that I followed my principles and put aside all envy and competitiveness from within my heart, and just delighted in my child and her happiness. But I am shamed to tell you that when I brought her to school I looked around -- I did -- to see how many other first-graders had home-decorated 100th Day T-shirts! Because, of course, I had to know how many other Mommies were as good as I was.

Oh, all right, since you asked. She was one of three. And I think her shirt was the best. But you know, that's just my humble, entirely uncompetitive opinion.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dear Me!

There's an interesting exercise going aroung the blogosphere these days called Dear Me. The idea is to write a letter to your own past self. What would you tell yourself, if you could go back in time?

I've written letters to my future self, but I've never tried addressing my own past. Having enjoyed some of other people's "Dear Me" entries (including Catherine's, as she's the one I caught this particular idea-germ from), I decided to give it a try.

To: Trudy J. Morgan, 1987, Oshawa Ontario.
From: Trudy J. Morgan-Cole, 2007, St. John's Newfoundland.

Dear Me,

Right away I know there are two things in the heading of this letter that are a huge relief to you: the hyphenated last name, indicating that you're going to get married, and the return address, indicating that you're going to move back to St. John's.

Yes, I know all your deepest fears. I know that you worry that you'll never marry and have a family, even though you want to. None of your romances have worked out so far, and after all, you are nearly 22, so time is slipping away! Or so it seems to you.

I also know that, although you're enjoying the adventure of living on your own in a new place, the homesickness inside never quite goes away. You want to end up back in St. John's, but you're afraid you never will.

I can put both those fears at rest. You will move back home, and you will marry a wonderful man (no-one you've met yet) who is kind to you and makes you laugh. You will have two beautiful children, and although there will be days when they make you scream, you will also laugh with delight at how lucky you are.

Right now you enjoy your job, but you dream of something more -- work that will keep you working with young people, but allow you to help those who need help most, in a more practical way. You will find that work, although it will take some years, and you'll have wonderful adventures along the way.

In your work and in your personal life, you're learning now to establish some boundaries, to protect yourself from caring too much and getting damaged. You learned a lot last year, didn't you? Setting boundaries is a good thing to do. The day will come when you will wonder whether you've made your boundaries too firm, protected yourself too much. The day will come when some of them will have to be breached again, but by then, you'll be ready for it.

Regarding love: I know you're in love now and that you believe this love was "meant to be," that the person you're breaking your heart over is your "destiny." Hear me on this: he is not. Yes, you love him. There are as many different kinds of love as there are different people. You love him as what he was meant to be: a dear and special friend who will always be in your life. I cannot begin to explain to you the extent to which he is not the right person for you to marry. It doesn't matter, because you're never going to get the chance to say yes or no, but maybe I can spare you a little heartbreak.

Regarding writing: Keep at it. Not every dream you have for your writing will come true, but many will. Don't get discouraged. Don't give up. Some of the paths you take may be unexpected, but you will be happy with the results.

Actually, that's true for life in general. You are on the right track. You will make mistakes, but you'll learn from them. Trust the way God is leading in your life. Trust your own head and your own heart. Both are true, and you are learning which one to listen to when.

Looking at you from the distance of twenty years, I'm proud of you, and I hope you would be proud of me if you could see me. I will not offer any advice which could change your path, because you're headed in the right direction. All I can do is remove a little of your fear and uncertainty, by assuring you that things will work out all right. I know how much you hate uncertainty.

I know you hate it, but I also know that fear and uncertainty are the soil in which faith grows. If you knew for certain that everything would work out, would you need faith? Would you be motivated to try as hard? Would you be the same person you are, without those fears?

Maybe the fear and uncertainty are part of what you need to grow.

Maybe I shouldn't send this letter.

I think I'll just hang onto it. Don't worry about a thing.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Updates and SSP

We have pulled down the quarantine flag and taken the plague sign off the door. Jason and I are much better, and Emma is on the road to recovery, although she has been home from school three days this week. She's finally starting to show enough improvement that we're sending her back to the salt mines tomorrow.

In Shameless Self-Promotion news, there's an interview with me up at a blog called Progressive Adventism. This blog is maintained by a guy called Julius Nam who is a prof at Loma Linda University, and as the name suggests it is an SDA blog, so the focus is on me as an Adventist writer, so it may not be of interest to everyone. Still, I do have some general stuff to say about the writing life, etc., so if you're interested, click on over.

It's still bitterly cold and I want to be curled into a tiny ball somewhere warm, but I'm soldiering on through the winter. Perhaps soon I'll have a more intriguing and thought-provoking blog entry to post ... perhaps not....

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Plague House

We've been dealing with and fending off various illnesses around here for the last little while. As of today it is officially time to run up the quarantine flag and declare this a plague house. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here ... or better yet stay outside and leave small donations of food at the door.

You may recall, faithful readers, that Emma stayed home from school on Monday with a cold. After that she seemed to bounce back quickly, with only an annoying cough lingering. Speaking of annoying coughs, I've had one since January 13, and it's getting worse instead of better, but as I had no other sick-like symptoms I was able to live with it. Yesterday morning Jason woke up feeling miserable, having obviously caught some bug or other.

Yesterday evening Jason and Emma both went to sleep almost as soon as they got in the house and stayed asleep most of the night. Jason was shot down with flu-like symptoms, and Emma's cold had clearly recurred in a virulent form. I was still coughing, but otherwise OK, till just before bedtime when I started to get all sinus-y and stuffed-up.

By this morning, I felt just as bad as anyone, which was pretty bad. Christopher was the only lively member of the quartet. He recently got over one of those annoying coughs that hung on for weeks, and I am literally praying he doesn't get sick again, although how he would avoid it in this germ-infested atmosphere, I don't know.

If I could wave a magic wand and give myself one parenting quality, I would like to be able to instill (inflict?) in my children the same overdeveloped sense of responsibility my parents gave me, because 90% of the world doesn't appear to have it at all and the world needs the other 10% of us to show up on time. I had promised earlier in the week to have Children's Story at church today, and even though it's one of the easiest things on the church program to replace, even though I was lying there sick in a house of 75% sick people with hard crusty snow in the driveway and He Who Wields the Shovel flat on his back with the flu ... even then, it took me about half an hour to decide that I wasn't going to church today. I had a wonderful feeling of peace and freedom once the decision was made ... after, of course, I called the church to alert the platform chairperson that I wouldn't be there, which is what we responsible people do when we bail on things.

Today has been incredibly low-key, as Emma, Jason and I have stumbled from nap to nap, and Christopher has looked in vain for someone fun to play with. One nice accident of biology is that when I am sick, I tend to feel worse as the day goes on, and when Jason is sick, he tends to feel better as the day goes on, so on those dreaded occasions when both parents are sick, we can each cover half the day. There was a point about two o'clock this afternoon when my downward trajectory passed his upward one, and we smiled at each other and exchanged a few sentences. Then I went barrelling downhill like a skier out of control. Jason is now Parent-in-Charge, and has just shovelled the driveway and is now taking a shower. I'm blogging with my last bit of strength before crawling back into bed.

I leave you with a picture of two usually lively and energetic gals who today are ... not so much lively.

Friday, February 02, 2007


I am an incredibly nosy person. I eavesdrop on conversations and I look to see what other people are buying at the grocery store (and yes, I make value judgements about them based on their groceries, even though I wish I could stop doing that).

Today I was standing at the prescription counter at the drugstore waiting to get a prescription filled. I waited a long time because the couple in front of me seemed to be taking forever. Whatever they were discussing with the pharmacy clerk, it seemed to be very involved and convoluted, and at first I wasn't intentionally eavesdropping, just overhearing.

Then I heard the clerk say, "You have to sign these forms..." and I got curious. What kind of prescription would you need to sign forms in order to get? That was when I started eavesdropping. (My behavior gets worse in this story, by the way).

A thought popped into my head about what they might be doing there. A guess. I glanced over at them for visual clues. They were a man and a woman, both dark-haired, probably my age or younger, but it was difficult to tell. Both their faces could best be described as "hard," but, as is universally and unfairly true, this looked better on the man than on the woman. (He could be charitably described as "ruggedly handsome." She was just rugged).

I went back to minding my own business as the clerk continued talking to the couple. They were going to have to go away, read and sign their forms, and come back in about half an hour to talk to someone else -- I didn't get who that was. OK, I wasn't really minding my own business.

She slid the forms across the counter to them. I was standing quite close so I didn't have to lean in or anything, just shift my eyes for a quick glimpse. Yes, I looked at their forms. (That's as bad as my behavior gets. You can relax now).

My guess was right -- possibly it was on my mind because I'd heard the same thing discussed at staff meeting today regarding one of our students. They were signing forms related to receiving methadone treatment.

Suddenly they're not just two people picking up a prescription: they're a story. And I guess that's the easiest way to excuse my nosiness: I'm a writer; I'm looking for stories everywhere. I still knew next to nothing about this couple, but I had the evidence to make a couple of guesses: they were presumably drug addicts and were, for whatever reason, wanting to try to get off whatever narcotics they were on.

My reaction wasn't really a writer's reaction. On some strange and not-at-all-like-me level, I wanted to touch those strangers, maybe hug them, tell them that I think they're amazing and brave and I hope it works out for them. I didn't say or do anything, of course; I looked away and tried to pretend I was respecting their privacy like any normal human being would do.

I have, as I've said before, lived the most squeaky-clean life imaginable when it comes to any kind of substance use or abuse, so I don't know why I am so moved by alcoholics and addicts, why their stories (in fiction or in real life) intrigue me so much.

I know that I am in awe of anyone who makes brave steps toward huge life changes -- people who lose weight, people who come out, people who take the risk of loving instead of being lonely, people who take the risk of leaving instead of being hurt. But I am moved most of all by someone like the student who said to me this week, her voice bright and brittle with hope and fear, "I've been sober for four days now!" I wanted to hug her, too. I'm not a hugger, so I didn't.

But I'm also not a stranger at the drugstore, in her case, so I was able to say, "That's wonderful. Good luck with that."

Good luck to Drugstore Couple too, whoever and wherever you are. My prayers are with you. I don't know why it matters so much.