I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Saturday, 31 March 2007

lessons in humility

I'm back from the conference. And - wow. Not at all what I expected; as the afternoon of Friday progressed I could feel it: the telltale signs of my voice vanishing. It's happened before, usually about once a year I lose my voice. I just kept thinking, "no, not now ... I need to be able to sing for the conference. I want to encourage these ladies, I need to sing for the girls' dance ..." as it kept getting worse. When I knew it was going, I considered my options. Here's how it all went:
- my voice is gone. It's what I do and what I was on for this weekend.
- God, why?
- Ok, maybe You'll make it better?
- Ok, maybe now You'll make it better?
- please?
- About that making it better thing ...
- Ok, God knows what's happening. He's in control. So, I will go to the conference trusting that He can use me in some way or another. And maybe He'll make it better. Because that's what I need, right?
- I called DL to give her the heads-up and told her the plans. Then I called D and griped at his message machine: I am grumpy. And upset. I have no voice. I plan to go anyway, but how can I lead worship with no voice?
- D called back to sympathize but also to encourage me to remember two things: you are the worship leader, not a singer. Your job is to lead them to worship, not to perform. Also, serving in weakness is an example.
- I told D he's great.
- I went.
- My voice got worse on the way there. I prayed for a lot of the drive, then did some more when I got there.
- A wonderful woman whose husband leads another local church was able to practice with me and then stand up and help lead some of the songs.
- When the time came for the girls' dance, I was able to sing all of their songs. Not in my usual voice, but I was able to carry the songs. I was amazed at how I could sing through what had earlier been impassable. As I say, I've had this sort of thing before and such a change has never happened.
- This morning it was absolutely, definitely useless for singing. Bad enough for talking but non-existent for singing. It would literally vanish in a puff of vocal smoke if I tried. But the same great lady helped out, and I changed the song sets, and involved my ipod shuffle (held up to a mic, those little headphones have an amazingly clear sound).
- I learned a lot about humility (not on my strength) and in God's strength I had a window of ability to sing for the dance. I spent several hours in quiet time today, praying and reflecting and dreaming. It was good. The women were very encouraged by the worship times and the conference was a real blessing for all.

And now I'm home, and find out that one of the band members can't be there tomorrow. So it's off to find a bass player, I think.

Never a dull moment.

Friday, 30 March 2007


The music is printed up, the new song has a tune with which I'm very happy, and I have my directions. This morning I meet with the family whose daughters are dancing to four songs that I'm doing, to ensure our timing matches and we're comfortable with it. I look forward to seeing them dance ... hope I don't get distracted and screw up. The sound equipment (keyboard, amps, mics, stands, cables) is either here or has been sent on with DL, the conference organizer. The girls are dropped off for their highland dance class, and then I'm on my way (cue the Proclaimers' On My Way from the Shrek soundtrack).

The conference this weekend is put on by a local ministry group for wives of pastors. Now these are ladies who can, unfortunately, have an often thankless job. I hope the worship times can encourage and uplift them. I'm also looking forward to a sort of personal retreat time, away from the usual surroundings and the usual routine (whatever that is). It's amazing what just an overnight out of the environment can do to give one time to think, to pray, to meditate, to just sit and think.

It's sort of an extended version of what I do here sometimes, simply head out for a walk in the fields and sing a bit and talk to God a bit and shut up and listen a bit. This remains, in spite of its often busy pace, a peaceful place. I was MSNing with my drummer buddy last night and he talked about being in that place where your mind is rushing everywhere but getting nowhere, when you're mentally exhausted but it won't stop spinning. I've been there and it's not fun. Those are times D looks at me and says, "go for a walk for a bit". How well he knows me.

Last night was band rehearsal for Sunday. We worked up a great intro to the Chris Tomlin song Forever - we start with 16 bars of the riff from the 70s classic Deep Purple song Smoke on the Water, a song many don't know but will recognize the riff. It will be highly fun, reminiscent of the time we started Hillsongs' Glory with the opening bars of the Who's Pinball Wizard. I hope my voice holds out with singing all three days this weekend. It's sore but I seem to be able to sing through it. Bad me, abusing my vocal cords like that.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

you too can have fun with your blog

The last two posts were from Wednesday and Thursday mornings, not tonight as it appears. For some odd reason Blogger decided that it shouldn't allow comments on those, and in the end the only apparent fix was to copy and paste the text to make two new posts. Strange. Of course this was determined after much banging of head against wall. But I'm not bitter.

Now I need to figure out why, with my time zone set to Eastern Standard, Blogger insists that it's an hour earlier than it really is. Perhaps, like A, it is seriously miffed with whomever invented Daylight Savings time. The nerve of those people, making her go to bed while it's light out.

funny little things

Yesterday was pretty much back to normal schedule at the farm. The chickens are happy to be outside each day now, but R came back concerned in the morning that one of the hens (named 'Ninjie' by R, since she makes this funny sound that R has decided is something a ninja would do. I think she got that from D's funny imitations of old Bruce Lee movies) had more than just a bare neck; there was blood showing. Uh oh. R and I have never witnessed it but have read about the possibility of a pecking party. Apparently chickens will literally attack blood spots on another chicken and kill whatever unlucky hen gets that way. So, out we went with a soft rag and a 1:5 vinegar-water solution that I had read about applying to both clean the bare spot and discourage other hens. Guess they don't like vinaigrettes. R quickly grabbed Ninjie and I proceeded to give the hen a sponge bath, which was definitely not appreciated. Several checkups through the day confirmed that she was doing better, but we'll see how the patient is today. Query: if it continues, do I need to make her a little scarf?

A funny discovery yesterday involved the garbage can. We wanted one with a brushed-stainless finish, but learned on going to buy one several months back that most put you out about $200 (for a garbage can????) until we found one for a much more reasonable $40. Now, this was a primo garbage can, since it has an infra-red sensor and when you pass your hand over it, up pops the lid. Very good for when your hands are full, and highly entertaining for the kids. And much less than $200! The dogs will occasionally put their heads by it and open it too.

As we sat going over school yesterday, we heard the telltale sound of the lid opening, then closing. Then opening and closing again. Then a third time. Ok, enough, doggies. But wait, there's one there and the other one there... and all the girls accounted for. There goes the lid again. Hmmm. Into the kitchen I went, to find a ladybug walking about on the sensor, setting the lid off again and again. The girls and I thought it was hilarious (yes, we are easily entertained) though afterward I was thinking about the ladybug's perspective. Either he/she was scared half to death at this giant maw opening and closing, about to devour him, or he/she was on a major power trip.

Also yesterday, the song I had written lyrics for in Myrtle Beach finally got a tune put to it. As I worked through it and put the notes into my software, the girls were picking up on the tune. I guess that's a good sign that it's singable. I don't like putting too much musical complexity into a song that is meant to be sung in a group setting (like in church or, in this case, a conference); it detracts from the song if people are struggling to figure out what the heck to sing or feeling lost in the tune. But it's mostly done now and I'm happy with how it's going. The annoying thing is when I feel like I have a good idea for a melody and then think, 'oh, wait, that's the bridge from such-and-such a song'. But I think I'm good on this one.

on language

A post by serendipity on writing has got me thinking. I am a self-confessed grammar nerd. I find words themselves interesting and just the right phrase can take something ordinary and make it sublime. I call them 'delicious phrases', those certain turns of words that are enjoyable to simply read over and over and think, 'yes, yes, that's it'. And it is fitting that 'delicious phrase' is, itself, a delicious phrase.

Certain authors use them and so I love reading their books over and over again, enjoying the phrases much as one might enjoy savoring some perfectly prepared dish or sipping some fine wine. Jane Austen, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Stephen Leacock - each has that way of writing that I love to immerse myself in for a while.

And words themselves fascinate me, how our use of them has changed over the years. English has so many quirks and has borrowed from so many other languages that I was not surprised to hear it referred to as one of the most difficult languages to learn. One quirk: if malignant is an adjective and malign is a verb, does it not follow that a non-spreading cancer would be benignant and you could do something nice to benign someone? I have only seen the word benignant once, in Dickens's The PIckwick Papers (a delightfully funny book with wonderful characterization).

Enough scholarly talk. Next post will be about the farm, I think.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007


3 1/2 years is a long time. I will leave it at that for those who know what I mean. Sometimes there just aren't enough words, or any 'right' words. I miss him.

Monday, 26 March 2007

back to normal?

Our first full day at home has been one of getting things and ourselves back to normal. Sort of. We had expected to be alone here at home today but my sister has been sick with the same thing D and mom had and so packing has been a wee bit difficult for her. I know D slept the day away while he was ill so this is no surprise.

On the positive side of things I have a lovely concoction bubbling away on the stove. Sort of a takeoff on jambalaya, a Cajun-inspired dish that usually has chicken, shrimp and sausage in a tomato base with rice. However since shrimp and chicken were lacking, it's just sausage. It seems to be a nice blending of flavors that are sweet and spicy and so far my taste testing has been good. Now if only I could remember what I put in it...

That's D's pet peeve with my cooking. I love to experiment and cook by taste - a bit of this, and a bit of that, and ooh, this would go nicely with it too and how about a dash of these? Problems arise when I do this and D absolutely loves it and then I try to remember just what all the this's and that's were. It's a running joke in our house. I'm getting better though, really I am.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

it is good

It is good to spend over 16 hours in a car with your family and not want to throttle anyone at the end of it.

It is good to see other places, and to appreciate the beauty of them.

It is good to watch the sun rise over the ocean and share it with someone very special.

It is good to watch three little girls utterly enthralled with waves, collecting shells, and chasing seagulls.

It is good to see children's imaginations at work, and to join in with them.

It is good to have a family that is healthy again.

It is good to see, after mansions, new condos and fancy hotels, a little white farmhouse surrounded here and there by gray log buildings, drive down a bumpy laneway, and think:

It is good to be home.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

sickness, take 2

So now that A is herself again, hubby D and my mom are down with the virus or whatever little accursed creature has caused this whole thing. So he's resting the day away and I've stayed close by today in case I'm needed.

For the kids, though, we plan to make the afternoon and evening eventful for them, doing things that just scream "vacation" - to the beach to see the waves, collect shells, and fly a kite, and later mini golfing at one of the four zillion places here at Myrtle Beach.

R has gone to the shooting range with Uncle B and was very excited about going to watch and push the buttons that fire the little clay discs out of the tower for B to shoot. Wonder if she'll fire a gun? I have gone skeet shooting a few times and absolutely loved it. The feel of the kick of a shotgun is oddly appealing. Maybe the raw power of it, maybe the huge BLAM as it goes off, maybe the excitement of seeing the little disc turn from a whole thing into pieces or even better, disappear into a cloud of black powder. I'm not very good, nowhere near the caliber (sorry, bad pun) of goaliemom, but I do enjoy it. And there's something fun about yelling "PULL!" that makes one feel very authoritative. I'm not sure I would ever hunt an animal myself, but I feel no pity for the clays.

R is very taken with the whole guns/shooting/hunting thing. She gravitates to the camo clothing in any store we go to. She has no desire to play these first-person shoot-em-up video games a la Doom, but did on this trip buy a video game where you go out and hunt on safaris and such. It's an interesting combination, given she loves and wants to work with animals (not kill them) when she grows up. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds in her life.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

meal planning made easy

There is something about eating a meal that was planned like this:
"What's for supper?"
"Hm, what's in the fridge?"
"Not much for leftovers. How about grilling something? Chicken burgers?"
"Yeah, and some prosciutto on top."
"Get some provolone too, if they have some, and some tomatoes and lettuce"
"And for dessert?"
"How about a fruit pizza, with a shortbread crust and kiwi, mandarin oranges, and a marmalade glaze on top?"
"Sounds good."

And so supper was planned in a way that sounds very non-simple but turned into these delightful chicken, prosciutto and cheese sandwiches, and it was no stress whatsoever and I got to spend some time just creating a meal with goaliemom. So, all in all, it was one of those simple pleasures that make days into lovely, memorable events.

I love to cook and I love to be able to have fun and be creative in the kitchen. Two improvements could have been made to the meal:
(1) having said sandwiches on focaccia bread (Rule: just about everything is better on focaccia bread. Trust me.). But there was none to be had.
(2) grilling the chicken rather than sauteeing it. But, there was likewise no grill to be had.

This afternoon's power shopping, while not very aerobic (see last post), did result in some nifty purchases. Dishes and even a dress that is all flowy and pretty and which necessitated a pair of new shoes. But at the prices down here it's not that bad, really. Found some microfiber shirts for $5, which were duly snapped up.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

i had forgotten

This morning I went riding with R, on a trail ride through South Carolina forests and along the Intercoastal Waterway. I had forgotten how good it feels to go riding. I love horseback riding and while I did lots as a kid, I simply haven't done it as often as I'd like as an adult. That whole money thing, you know. It ain't cheap.

But there I sat today, riding through the forest - very different from a Canadian forest, with pine trees soaring overhead, covered with some sort of climbing vine, trees with glossy leaves like rhododendrons, and sand underfoot. As we approached the waterway we started to see oyster shells on the ground. We rode around a small lake that apparently has a couple of alligators in it. And as I enjoyed the peace and quiet, I looked ahead at R riding her horse and thoroughly enjoying her own little experience. It was good.

We came home to find that D had taken A & M to mini golf. It was great to see A getting to have some fun today, though her appetite isn't quite back yet. Tonight we went to an aquarium and had a blast going through a glass tunnel under sharks and rays, then reaching into the water to touch rays as they swam around. Watching the underwater reefs was mesmerizing. I think I could have sat there for hours. Very peaceful. Of course, then we went to the gift shop where A was delighted to find a plastic cutlass that made clanging sounds when you pressed a button, and all three girls launched into a heated sword fight with cousin Bean. A fun day, all in all.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll go running for a bit. I want to start getting back into shape so I can be at least somewhat ready for the Try-a-Tri in May. So running down here would be good. Perhaps I can just walk really fast while I'm shopping at the outlet malls ... would that count as aerobic exercise? Yeah. Power shopping. That's it.

Monday, 19 March 2007

on the mend and on the go

A is slowly but surely getting better and today ate about a cup of cold cereal and a few mouthfuls of applesauce. This would be her first solid food in four days. What that kid's poor digestive system has been through...

Now we're getting more into the Myrtle Beach swing of things, D shooting sporting clays with bro-in-law and nephew yesterday and going golfing with my dad this morning. I went shopping to these lovely things called factory outlets (Bass boots for $18? Hello?) and this afternoon or tomorrow plan to take R horseback riding. Mini golf is on the agenda for tomorrow. I love having some time when the hardest thing to decide is, what shall we do today? I'm hoping A can get out tomorrow and have some fun. Not much of a vacation for her yet.

I took some time yesterday to plan the music for a conference at the end of March for which I'm the worship leader. In the course of doing that I ended up writing the lyrics for a new song. It may need more or I may use it for the conference as it is; I need to get in front of a piano for a while to see where it goes musically.

Meanwhile, I have another song that is almost done - it needs, literally, one more word. To be exact, it needs a two-syllable adjective that isn't heavy on the S's (several "s" sounds in the stanza alreadyand more would be too much). Writing poetry/lyrics is often so much more precise than writing prose. There are times in a lyric that you need something so specific as what I'm looking for, just that one word that makes it all fall into place. I never used to write poetry; it's been something within the last little while. Funny how that happens.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

one long journey later

Here I sit in Myrtle Beach, after a drive that was full of experiences. Yes, let's call it that. Experience. Normally I enjoy long drives (see last post), but this was a trip unlike any others. Basically, we drove for several hours through snow, finally pulling off the road at midnight to sleep and wait for the road crews to do their road crew thing. The slow going and overnight stop added some 12 hours to the trip. We may have been able to soldier on had it not been for dear A's continued sickness.

Her trip was a blur of trying to drink water, throwing it up, and drifting in and out of consciousness. Halfway through the trip I was going into 'worst mommy ever' mode - what was I doing, having this sick child somewhere in the wilds of I-81? But continue we did, and A continued losing food. In her typical style she kept on counting and as it ended up she was sick 20 times in 36 hours. We arrived in Myrtle Beach, dropped off the older two to Grandpa & Grandma's care, then took her to the local 24-hour medical center. Sure enough, a stomach virus had her dehydrated. One bag of saline IV later she was noticeably better.

Today was spent resting and recouping. She's still wiped out but much more herself. Keeping food down and snoozing, mostly. But we're here and able to have some fun with family.

Time for bed.

Friday, 16 March 2007

almost ready?

This afternoon we pick up D from work, then we're on our way for the all-night drive to Myrtle Beach. Fourteen hours in the car, trading off driving and trying to sleep while my neck goes through all sorts of strange contortions. But we get there by tomorrow morning, so it's cool.

I think I can handle long drives because many of our family trips when I was a kid involved long drives. In fact, the drive became part of the trip - it wasn't just about the destination. We've tried to foster that in the kids too. There is so much out there to see, so we try to savor the journey and make it an adventure. There's snow forecast through some of the states, so we may have to make the call to pull over. We're crazy, but not stupid.

Hopefully A will be feeling better; I think she's got the same thing as Serendipity's little gaffer. I was up with A at 1:00, 3:30, 5ish, 6:30, and then there've been two more since 7:30. Nothing is really staying down, so I give her water after each time in hopes of rehydrating and if nothing else, making the next time a little easier on her little body. Poor thing. At 1am she had her head over the toilet, saying, "but what about Myrtle Beach, Mommy?" We've changed our packing plans somewhat to include several plastic bags. Between episodes, there are no flu-like symptoms and she's quite cheerful. In fact she has a tally sheet on the go of how many times she's thrown up. She does have quite a little mind for math. I expect a graph any time now.

With the melting snow the chickens have had the door to their run opened each day. While all was snow around they would walk down the ramp, cock their heads a bit and study the white stuff on the ground, eat it, but no way would they set foot on it. Not so much as a toe. Now that the dirt (mud, really) is there, they have been happily outside each day. They seem to be enjoying the sunshine as much as me.

Yesterday's true sign of spring: the call of a male red-winged blackbird. A very distinctive call (sort of a gurgle and then a shriek) to mark his turf before the females return from the south. I laughed aloud when I heard it and called out a welcome to him. He squawked at me.

But there is much work to do around here, laundry and packing and cleaning out the chicken coop. And miles to go before I sleep ... (that's Robert Frost, I think?)

ETD: 4pm.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

thinking on spring

The snow is vanishing, the little patches of yellow-brown grass increasing. I can see bits of my garden again, but the potholes in our laneway have returned with a vengeance. Spring. Maybe? I can hope.

Two days til we head on our family trip south. Tomorrow is three weeks since the fire. Living all together is still going well though the kid squabbles seem to be on the rise.

The farm show yesterday was fun and I went looking for info on something I've been considering for the farm ... wait for it ... goats. Very much intro-level preliminary 'am-I'-mad' sort of looking. And I came away thinking it just might work. I mean, any animal that loves to eat weeds would find our fields to be the epitome of fine dining. It does seem like a feasible venture that we could start on a very small level and then expand (or not) as we wish. That's one nice thing about livestock; let nature take its course and you do end up with more than you started with. But I'm glad we have lived here for a while now (almost three years!) and I have a pretty realistic view of these things, and we will tread carefully into new things here.

I keep thinking of the "Lonely Goatherd" song from The Sound of Music. ledl-odl-edl-odl-eh, hee-hoo! *sigh*

The more I learn, the more I know that there is much I do not know. I'm not sure if someone said that, or if it's a paraphrase, or if I just made up something new and very witty. But it's true, whatever the source of that little bit of wisdom. D and I said right from the start that we would proceed slowly with things of a farmish nature, knowing that we could, very easily and quickly, get waaaaaay in over our heads. And being tall as we are, that's saying something. So bit by bit, we think and plan.

And we keep looking forward to spring.

April showers bring May flowers ... March showers bring mud.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

a week afield

It seems to be a week of field trips. The public schools are in March Break but since we're off to the hopefully sunny south next week, we're working through school in the mornings this week.

Monday: the War Museum. We usually try to get through the whole thing and end up with some 600 years of Canadian War history jumbled up in our minds. This time we tried a trick I've read about but never done: we chose two areas and did not leave them. The result was just what I was hoping for. The girls and I went quickly through the WW1 section (A loves to visit the walk-through trench they have set up), then slowly made our way through the WW2 section, reading every little caption and working together to make sure we got to really understand the exhibits. Since R had done her project, the D-Day portion and the Normandy campaign were fresh in her mind and she understood the context and the importance of the things she saw. Everything we found confirmed her research and parts that had not attracted our attention before suddenly had meaning for us. The Canadian War Museum is an amazing place, one well worth a visit or two. Or three.

Tuesday: (Today) The Ottawa Valley Farm Show! We get to feel like real farmers for a day as we go to the show and see exhibitors for all sorts of things, from 4-H and livestock to the girls' favorite: huge tractors with 6' high tires. Add in all the info on barns and farm life in general, and we get the same feeling that so many get from a home show: hey, this would be cool to do! And this, and this, and this, and this!

Wednesday: we plan to spend the afternoon with a lovely lady from our church who is personally a real inspiration to me but for the purpose of this visit we are going to enjoy her amazing talent for art and painting. She's going to do an afternoon workshop with the girls and their cousins.

That's enough for now. School starts in 5 minutes.

Monday, 12 March 2007

can it be?

It's slightly above freezing, the sun is shining, and a lovely little box from Vesey's seeds arrived a few days ago, full of seeds that rattled happily in their envelopes as they waited to be planted. So today myself, my sister B and good friend J sat at the table divvying up seeds (really, when one gets 100 corn seeds in a package, sharing them becomes a great way to keep costs down. And there's no way I'm going to plant 800 carrots) and thinking ahead to warm days and fresh veggies.

Of course it will lead to my annual internal debate: does one scold kids for eating before supper if what they've done is wandered through the garden and helped themselves to some sweet beans and peas, hanging from their little vines and looking oh-so-good? I don't think so. If they are going to snack and 'ruin their appetites' with veggies as fresh and clean as they come, I'm not going to complain. Last year R became an expert at making a walking salad - some beans here, a couple of chives to season it, a few lettuce leaves there, a tomato still warm from the sun... aaaaah. Vegetables never tasted so good.

Unfortunately, the slugs seem to agree with me and I don't want to find their slimy little trails across an otherwise picture-perfect tomato this year. Last year we made a few inroads when during the fall garden cleanup, the chickens had an outing and busily scratched around in the garden, little feathered rototillers digging and pouncing on any poor insect (ha! no pity from me) that strayed across their paths. Turning over the boards I'd used to keep growth down in the paths was like inviting the hens to a buffet as they walked up the boards picking off slugs as they went. And with all that walking and scratching and eating came ... ahem ... fertilizing. Chicken manure is apparently wonderful with plenty of nitrogen for plants, but so much so that it will burn them unless it's given some time to break down.

So today I find myself longing again for spring. Drip, drip, goes the ice. Wonder if winter is through with us just yet? Hmm.

Friday, 9 March 2007

present and history

The present:
Life continues here at the crowded little house, better than one might expect for a family of four and a family of five living in a 4-bedroom home. I've reminded myself several times that back when this house was built, 9-member families were not out of the ordinary, so we can do it too.

Earlier this week D and I took the girls out for dinner at a nice restaurant, a way of saying we're proud of the way they have adapted to our new household setup, and for the way they have handled watching their cousins get new toys after new toys after new toys. I was bracing for "why isn't there something for us?", which I'm pretty sure would have been my reaction at their ages, but have not heard so much as a peep of that. It's been a pleasant surprise to see them handling the situation so well.
Today's high-tech innovation to my blog: a photo! Posted right here! Well, down a line or two.

The history:
Yesterday was the day: the school-level Historica fair. A & M presented their Canadian Horse project and did a very good job of giving the information that they had learned. They even did well answering the questions of those who came by their display. R did her presentation on the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and much to her surprise won first place overall. She had worked very hard and practiced her presentation and it was so good to see all the work rewarded in that way. She moves on to the regional fair at the start of next month. A visit to the War Museum is in the plans for next week, a place R loves to visit anyway but is keen to see it again with the new knowledge that she has gained over the last couple of months. We learned so much from all of the kids' presentations, and had fun seeing their friends present their projects. They covered everything from pirates and Lego to maple syrup, trapping, ballet, other war topics, and local history. Impressive, really.

The future:
I need sleep.