The answers

Just what you were looking for…

1. How do you put up with 2 kids that are puking AND whining and not just climb back into bed and lock them out of the bedroom?

Ha! If I had the answer to THAT, I could write a parenting book, make millions, and then hire you a nanny so you could lock the bedroom door for a few hours.

Seriously, just like every other mom I know, I just muddled through (and continue to muddle through) and gritted my teeth through the really rough spots.

2. Your life seems very full – you have kids, work, craft, travel….how do you find time for just yourself? What do you do to relax?

Yeah, my life sometimes seems impossibly full, but despite that, I’m actually fairly good at finding time for myself – partly because I have pathetically low standards for some of the things other women excel at, like cleaning house and actually putting the folded laundry back into dresser drawers. (That’s what laundry tables are for – just line everything up in piles for every member of the family and let them fend for themselves.) Part of the reason I’m quite fond of my business travel is that it allows me guilt-free time to do some of my favourite things, like wandering, reading, taking pictures, and spending uninterrupted time in a bookstore. The other thing that helps me find time for relaxation is the fact that I have a really cool husband who is very much an equal partner on the home front – he does most of the cooking and lots of the cleaning and stays more on top of things like what forms are due at school and who has a soccer practice each night – and who sends me out the door when it’s clear that I need some “me time”. One of the other things I do, when the world seems to be unraveling, is take my journal to my son’s grave and write whatever comes to mind. (Sometimes I wish my dad’s grave were closer so I could do it there too.)

3. You’ve traveled all over the world, but where’s one place you haven’t and would love to?
Here are the countries I’ve been to: Canada, U.S., Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, India, Bangladesh, England, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Greece, France, Holland, and Spain.

And a few of the countries I want to visit some day: Brazil, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Kuala Lumpur (I know that last one is kinda random, but I loved the book Democracy by Joan Didion and that was the first time I ever heard of Kuala Lumpur. I’ve been intrigued ever since.)

4. What do you love to write about most?
Funny you should ask – I’ve been working on building my own website lately (because I want to build up my freelance career in writing and leadership consulting) and I’ve been wrestling with trying to find my “unique voice” so I know what I most want to sell myself as. I’ve done alot of different kinds of writing (poetry, drama, essays, research articles, lots and lots of business writing, and I’ve even written a novel), but I think in recent years, my favourite thing to write would fit in the category of personal essay. If I were to narrow that down even further, I think I would say essays about issues such as social justice, leadership, experiences in other cultures, and unique approaches to spirituality. (I’d love to turn this question around, though – what do YOU most like about what I write?)

5. In your experience, what are most important ingredients necessary for a creative writing workshop?

Ooo… Stephanie, you ask GOOD questions! I think some of the most important ingredients are:
– enough freedom to write in the voice that’s most comfortable, but enough challenge to test voices outside of your comfort zone
– trust among the participants and instructor – that they can respect each other’s unique perspectives and world views
– unique, outside-the-box writing exercises (one of my favourites was a brown bag exercise where each participant was given a brown bag with a few things inside that they had to incorporate into a piece of writing)
– an instructor (or facilitator) who knows the “rules” but is confident enough to know the right time to break them
– an instructor who provides some constructive ideas for how to use/share your writing and challenges people to get good writing out into the world

6. What I want to know is, how does having a cold or allergies affect that nose ring?

The nose ring really has little affect on my life, even when I have a cold. Once you get used to it, it’s pretty easy to blow your nose, wash your face, etc.. Now and then you have to pick the boogers off the little curved wire in the inside (is that too much information?), but it’s really not a big deal. I’ve never regretted it, and the only time it has caused me discomfort was the time shortly after I got it that I caught my ring on it while washing my face in the shower. Ouch.

7. You have a nose ring?

Why, yes… yes I do! I got it on my 4oth birthday (2 and a half years ago) just for fun. I’d wanted to get one back in my twenties, but chickened out because I didn’t think I had the right nose for it (my friend had a lovely regal nose and just seemed to suit it so well) AND I was much too concerned about what people thought of me back then. By 40, I was much more comfortable in my skin and no longer cared as much about what my nose looked like or what other people thought, so I went for it. Call it delayed gratification. 🙂 (Julie is trying to convince me that at 50, I need to get a tattoo. We shall see.)

8. Who’s your favourite sister-in-law?

Well, it’s ccap, don’t ya know? 🙂 (For those who don’t get it, my sister is also my sister-in-law, and since I only have one sister, that seemed like the most politically correct choice.) Truthfully, though, I’m rather found of all of them, INCLUDING YOU, ACCIDENTAL POET/HOUSEWIFE/CANDLE CARVER/BEAUTIFUL WOMAN WHO MARRIED MY TECHNOGEEK BROTHER! (Yes, you’re beautiful, despite what my bumbling 15 year old self once said to you!)

9. Who’s the favourite man in your life?

Why that would be YOU, Mr. Anonymous, a.k.a. Studmuffin Husband!

That was fun. Any more questions?

It’s Thursday, right?

1. We’re moving offices next week, but I haven’t packed a single box. I’m mastering the art of procrastination.

2. Julie is – true to her nature – delightfully stubborn about what she can accomplish with only her left hand (she’s right handed and that’s the one she broke). She climbed into the tub the other day and I said “call me when you want me to help wash your hair”. A few minutes later, she climbed out of the tub, hair successfully washed and rinsed and no water on her cast.

3. It sickens me that in some parts of the world, little girls have to fear being sprayed with acid on their way to school. We may have come a long way, baby, but collectively, we’ve still got a long way to go.

4. I’m mightily uninspired today. Here I am at #4 and I can’t think of anything else to say.

5. I want to go to Afghanistan, just to sit with those girls with the burnt faces. Just to tell them that other people in the world lament their suffering.

6. I like the word lament. I think we should use it more often. I’m on a one-woman campaign to increase its use – I include it in almost all of my presentations. We need to lament the injustice in the world, and then do something about it.

7. While in Afghanistan, I’d stop in and say hello to Melissa Fung (a woman I haven’t met but have spoken with over the phone in the past). She seems like a calm and courageous woman.

8. I’m so glad that media the world over had enough respect to keep Melissa’s kidnapping a secret until she was released. Despite what we sometimes suspect (at least when it comes to paparazzi), there really IS some honour among journalists and media outlets.

9. I’m feeling much better today, but oh-so-tired.

10. I think Barack Obama will make a fine leader, but I wonder how disappointed all of his hero-worshipers will be when he makes his first mistake. With the huge expectations that have been raised the world over (apparently something like 95% of people outside the U.S. wanted him elected), I can’t imagine the weight he’s got on his shoulders.

11. I’ve read 2 great books lately, The Lemon Tree and The Year of Living Biblically. They’re very different books, but the authors share a common and rare ability to write with an open mind and remarkably little judgment or bias.

12. In answer to darien’s question a few posts ago, yes I saw the three churches in Mahone Bay. (Actually, I’m told there’s a total of 5 churches – if you look further into the distance, but three are most prominent along the shore.) I nearly got trapped in a thorn bush when I climbed a barrier to snap this picture. Those branches may look innocent enough, but they’re covered in thorns.

13. My new office has an burnt orange wall (lovely). And I have a huge window that overlooks a shopping mall (weird). I’ll get to watch people do their Christmas shopping. And they’ll get to peer up my skirt if I sit too close to the window.

Friday five

I lost another 3 pounds (that’s a total of 18, if you’re counting). Which is kind of surprising, since I’ve allowed Nutella-by-the-spoonful to become an integral part of my daily diet.

Speaking of diets… last night I surprised the girls and took them out for ice cream after soccer – and we hadn’t even had supper yet. It kind of blew their minds. Just before Julie got in the car, I said to Nikki “watch this – this time when she asks for ice cream, I’m going to surprise her and say YES.” Julie is very predictable that way – she asks for ice cream after EVERY soccer game and/or practice. She never really expects me to say yes, though.

Marcel has been substitute teaching almost every day since he started. And he’s in such a good mood, it’s contagious. (I’m glad I accepted that first French immersion job, because he figured out he could do it and now he’s getting all kinds of jobs in French immersion schools.)

Next week, I get to meet my new nephew, Jack. AND I get to hang out with my lovely niece Abby for a couple of days. I can’t wait!

I have nothing to do this long weekend. NOTHING! That’s a beautiful word. After the craziness of last weekend (OH MY GOSH – about 9 commitments in 2 days), and almost every evening so far this month, I’m looking forward to some leisurely time of just doin’ nothin’. PLUS the weather has finally turned around, so look for me on my bike or at the playground… or picking dandelions with Maddie. Picnic, anyone?

Thirteen random things

1. Apparently all I needed to do to fill up my comment box was to say the word “dog” and people start coming out of the woodwork! Thanks for all the helpful advice! Julie will be thrilled. (And I’ll keep you posted.)

2. I’m a little ashamed of myself for not having made any effort to go over and meet the new neighbours who moved next door in November. My goal this weekend is to go say hello.

3. For those of you who miss her witty and “spit-beverages-at-your-screen” hilarious posts, I spoke with Whippersnapper this week. She is alive and well and just doesn’t have much brain power left after teaching and parenting to formulate posts. But she’s reading this one, so if you beg and plead in the comments, we may be able to convince her to come back. (Please, PUH-LEASE Whip! Just do what I do when I’m drained – type the first 13 random thoughts that pop into your head.)

4. I finally wrote something and submitted it to an editor yesterday. I don’t think I’ve managed to do that once in the last year, because all of my energy (and then some) was consumed with a crazy year at work. Even if it doesn’t get published, I’m just happy I’m back in the game.

5. Speaking of work, I updated my workplan last week (wherein I identify my progress on the goals I set a year ago) and MY GOSH I accomplished a lot last year! No WONDER I was completely exhausted by Christmas!

6. I didn’t put it on my workplan, but one of my goals this year is “friendship”. With all the craziness of last year, plus the ongoing craziness of parenting, I invested very little energy into friendship. This year, I’m making it a priority.

7. Remember the creativity retreat I was going to plan? Well, it got put on the back burner last fall (see #5 for the reason), but after I get back from India, I’m going to try to pull it together. One of the people who is eagerly anticipating it bugged me about it yesterday and I committed to her that I would follow through.

8. Did I mention that we managed to hire someone into the vacant position on my team? Woohoo!

9. The pieces are beginning to fall into place for my trip – one week in Bangladesh and one week in India. We have a weekend of spare time in between, where we’re flying from Dhaka to Kolkata to Patna. If anyone has been there, can you tell me which of those three places would be the most interesting to spend the weekend?

10. Either my daughters REALLY like muffins or they are so surprised to see mom suddenly bake that they’re humouring me just to make sure it happens again. Two batches disappeared faster than I could make more.

11. There’s a stack of about 300 receipt letters sitting on my desk waiting to be signed. I think I’ll have a sore wrist by the end of the day.

12. I love picking Nikki up after her practices with the developmental soccer team. She’s not normally very talkative, but there’s something about these practices (I think it has a lot to do with good, encouraging coaches) that turns her into an animated, chatty girl.

13. A year ago, I was in Ethiopia where it was SOooo warm. Unfortunately, around here this week, it’s SOOooo cold.

Home again

After 2 nights in Montreal (well, one was only half a night, since I got there really late, after a couple of mishaps at the airport delayed the flight, and then the cab driver got lost in Montreal), a train ride to Toronto, and then a few hours in Toronto, I am home.

– The meeting in Montreal was good. People were gracious and kind. They even laughed at my attempt to be funny, and they lapped up the free prizes and even applauded me. There was simultaneous translation for the workshop, so I spoke in English and some of the people heard “me” in French. And vice versa for the questions. I am in awe of anyone who can hear one language and speak in another language at essentially the same speed as the person delivering the message.

– The train ride was lovely. I wrote a bit, slept a bit, listened to music a bit, and stared out the window a lot. Purely delightful.

– I am really not very good at shopping. I know that sounds lame – shopping shouldn’t take any particular skills – just go into a store and buy something. But I wandered around downtown Toronto for a few hours, thinking I’d get a good start on Christmas shopping, and I came home with nothing. I just kept finding myself back in the bookstore or coffee shop, seeking solace from the craziness of Christmas shoppers.

– I got home late last night, long after Maddie was sleeping. This morning, she was pleasantly surprised to find me in bed. She crawled under the covers with me and said “the country where you went on your trip must be a warm country, because you’re nice and warm.” Smile.

– Fortunately I had better luck today when I went shopping. I managed to complete almost all my Christmas shopping with one trip to Ten Thousand Villages. Yay for fair trade.

– There is a lot of snow in Montreal. Downtown, with its sparkly Christmas lights and mountains of snow looks like a winter wonderland. (Maybe I’ll get some pictures downloaded tomorrow.)

– I’ve had enough business trips for awhile. Fortunately, the next one will be to a much more exotic place than the last ones have been.

Three unrelated things about the weekend

1. Saturday night after dinner, we were sitting in our living room when we saw a limo pull up in front of our house. We weren’t expecting any celebrity guests, so naturally our curiousity was piqued. Out of the limo stepped these three young men with their very special cargo. Sadly, that is not the Grey Cup – nope, that will be heading to Saskatchewan tonight. Instead, it’s the Vanier Cup. Our University of Manitoba Bisons won it on Friday. One of these fellows is our neighbour. They were looking pretty beat, but still quite happy to pose for just one more picture.
2. On another note, today I had a speaking engagement at a seniors’ home in Steinbach. Given that my family roots are in the vicinity of that very Mennonite part of the province, I knew I would be subjected to the “Mennonite game” wherein nearly everyone in the room would try to figure out who my parents and grandparents were and which of the people in the room I was related to. (I didn’t grow up in that area, but both of my parents did.) Sure enough, I was not disappointed. What I didn’t expect though, was the woman who pulled me over to tell me, with a bit of a giggle, that she’d once dated my dad, back in the day. He’d taken her for a drive in the country and had tried to teach her to drive. At one point, they’d come upon a herd of pigs, and she’d become flustered and had just taken her hands and feet off of everything. I guess that was the end of the driving lesson.

3. Speaking of my dad… when we were growing up, Sunday was a sacred day. Other than preparing meals, washing the dishes, and making sure the farm animals got fed, there was no work done on the farm. Even if it was beautiful weather in the middle of the harvest, my father refused to break the sabbath. Back then, I thought of him as a little legalistic. Now I’m starting to think he was on to something. We have slowly let ourselves step away from “remembering the sabbath and keeping it holy,” and it has become just another day to get the laundry done, go grocery shopping, you name it. Today, after I got back from Steinbach, I took a nap and allowed myself to be lazy for most of the day. It was good. I think I need more sabbath-keeping.

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