Encore: The Wrath of Chubby Chicken

When I was a kid I was chubby.

The kids in my class used to call me “Chubby Chicken”.

The words stung, but they didn’t scar

and I remember crying but not sobbing.

I would lie awake at night because the insult itched but I never allowed myself to scratch it raw…

because I knew the sadness would pass,

all I needed was patience.

I don’t really know where the patience came from. It could have been because I had a family I knew loved me unconditionally.

Maybe it was because I had a few loyal friends and therefore was not utterly alone.

It could be in part because I had stuff to do (chores and homework and piano practice) that kept me busy enough that the insults didn’t weigh on my mind every minute of every hour and only when I lay silent and still in my bed at night.

Was it because I had books and could escape into the lives of others- those characters that faced brutality leagues above my own hurt feelings (Jane Eyre, Ann Frank, the March sisters?) or witness those who caused undue pain on others to suffered the wrath of an unassuming hero, (Hercule Poirot)?

I think it was because I realized that

those spewing their hurtful opinion were people of no significance so their opinion amounted to

nothing but the hot air they used to move the words from their lips.

Indifference was the best revenge.

It pains me to see kids at the school I teach hide behind their hair, or under their hat, and skulk away in fear of being teased.

And I wish they would believe me when I tell them

this too will pass

and that puberty can be purgatory. But it will pass.

It will pass.

And that most of the time the words of others don’t have to be sharp as stings, but rather as unsubstantial as hot air.

To Dance on Canada Day

Today I wanted to dance to “Oh Canada”

But I didn’t,

thinking it would be disrespectful.

So I kept the urge quiet.

Its tune made me happy

Maybe it was because I was exhausted and I found the tune soothing.

Maybe because I was happy it was summer

And any melodious trembling made me want to sway and swirl

But I think it is because I am proud to live where I do

and grateful for what others have done

facing death for an ideal

Just so I could be free to stand

At attention and listen

And dance in my imagination

To the swells of that proud melody

My Dad

In honour of Father’s Day I thought I’d share some little things my father used to do that made my sisters and I feel loved:

1. He would sharpen our pencil crayons with his jack-knife.

2. When my sisters and I would come home off the school bus he’d leave us a little note on the counter telling us where he was working on the farm. He’d always include a little stick drawing of himself and the cat.

3. Every morning he’d wake us up for school and keep us company while we ate breakfast. He’d be the one to dollop porridge in our bowls.

4. He’d find where the mother cat had her kittens, or where the dog had her puppies and would crawl in prickly, cramped, claustrophobic places to pluck out the babies so we could hold them…even it if was only for a minute or two.

5. He’d make Cheez Whiz toast for us when we were sick, and cut the bread into four equal quarters.

6. He’d shovel off the dugout in the bush so we would have our own little skating rink.

7. He’d make sure the night-light was always lit.

8. Every morning during the school year he’d watch us toddle out to the end of the driveway and cross the road . He’d then patiently wait until we all safely got on the school bus.

9. He would be more gentle than my mother when taking out splinters.

10. He would discover baby mice or partridge eggs or newly hatched ducklings and would always find the time to share his discoveries with us.

Oh he did all the grandiose fatherly things too like put food on the table, teach us to drive and help pay for our education…

but it’s the little things that stick closest to the heart.

Reposting “Lessons my Mother Taught Me”

In honour of Mother’s Day, here are some of the many, many lessons I’ve learned from my beautiful mother:

1.Try to look your best when you go out in public. Now grant it I don’t follow through with this one ALL of the time especially Saturday mornings after a long week at work when sweat pants, a t-shirt and a ponytail suffice. Washing the crud out of my eyes and the application of deodorant are dependent upon the amount of caffeine consumed that morning. As kids, mom used to curl our hair with hard plastic yellow curlers, wrap our head in a babushka Saturday night so that we’d have curls in time for church Sunday morning. My sisters and I celebrated the day the curling iron came to town because we no longer had to sleep in the Babushka Of Hell. My mom ALWAYS looks the lady in public. Fixing her hair . Wearing earrings. Filing her nails. I wish to be as graceful and classy when I reach her age.

2.When someone breaks your heart, take the time to pamper yourself in order to remind yourself that you’re pretty darn special even if you feel like a rejected loser. When I was in my early twenties the boy I was dating for four years and I broke up. I was living in Edmonton taking a summer school course. I was away from family and friends and I was simply and profoundly sad (insert mournful violin music here). My mom came to Edmonton just to spend time with me. She took me out for supper and bought me a pretty sweater. I still remember what that sweater looked like. It was dark plum in colour and had a beige lace collar. I remember that sweater because to me it symbolized that someone cared and that I was special and loved even though I really REALLY didn’t feel like it at the time.

3.Reading is as important as breathing. When I was a little kid our home possessed a little library. Before she was married, my mom was a part of a book of the month club and had acquired quite a little collection of classics. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Jamaica Inn just to name a few. Then, while we were growing up, she bought other classics like Little Women, Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island. I owe my love of literature to my mother. Throughout my life, reading has been a saving grace helping me through times of sorrow and stress and loneliness. It’s also served as a bridge for friendships and a bond with family.

4.You must always maintain a relationship with your sisters no matter how annoying you might find them. The ties with siblings are often the only ones that survive an entire lifetime. My mom has proven this. Throughout the years (about fifty!) her and her brothers and sister have always stayed in touch. Phoning on birthdays, meeting at weddings, and sadly now, meeting at funerals. As the years go by I notice the heartache and loss my mom feels as she loses her siblings in their passing. The people you share a history with, the people who have seen you throughout EVERY stage of your life hold an emotional power that no words can describe. Now, of course I love my sisters, but what’s really notable is that I’m at a time in my life where I really quite like them a lot as well! But there is no doubting that there were times growing up that I wanted to stuff both of them in the laundry hamper and shift them off to the dump.

5.You don’t need band-aids for every scrape you receive. In the literal sense my mom was pretty stingy with the Band-Aids. As a kid I longed to wear a Band-Aid because I thought wearing one was like wearing a badge of honour. Wow, you must have REALLY hurt yourself if your wound warranted one. Sometimes I’d pick the scabs off my mosquito bites so that I could get one. But Mom would just apply the rubbing alcohol and tell me to “let the air get at it” so that it could heal properly. In the figurative sense this taught me that not every emotional bruise I was going to receive was going to be the end all and the be all. That I couldn’t really experience happiness unless I experienced sadness. That I couldn’t recognize joy unless I witnessed pain.

6.A love for learning. When my sisters and I took piano lessons, my mom learned how to play even if it was just a little bit. She even braved a quartet with us for one of our recitals. When I was in high school, I remember watching my mom study for her Early Childhood certificate. Spending evenings at the dining room table writing papers and working on projects. I also remember my mom buying “how to teach yourself how to type” books along with a typewriter. Over the last few years my mom has learned how to quilt. I consider her a master quilter even though I’m sure she begs to differ. I see her finding joy and excitement in learning new things and more importantly creating beautiful kaleidoscopic manifestations of this learning and sharing them with others.

7.You can do it on your own. My mom, during a time in history when it wasn’t all that easy for women to be independent, trained to be a teacher, got jobs, paid her bills and bought a car pretty much on her own. She didn’t NEED anyone to make it on her own in the world and she instilled this confidence in her daughters. A gift for which I will always be grateful.

8.True love is unconditional and constant. Life is filled with inconsistencies and crapshoots. But one of the few things I’ve always been absolutely indubitably sure of is the fact that my mother loves me. I don’t have to see it in her actions, I don’t have to even hear it in her words. All I have to do is be in her presence and I can feel the profound love she has for me. And this has been the most valuable lesson of all.

Happy, happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!

Those Moments where we Stop and Blink

Sometimes there are small quotes from books, another person’s gift of weaving images and metaphors in such a way that sums up exactly what is going on in the readers reality without clinically spelling it out.

One of the most poignant novels I’ve read is The Secret Scripture by Sabastian Barry. It’s the type of novel that must be read slowly, each paragraph sipped and held in your mouth until you really taste and appreciate the significance and intricacies of its style. The novel is filled with beautifully written paragraphs that cause the reader to stop and actually wonder how an author can so eloquently present a truth.

One such paragraph is:

“And the river itself, the Garrovoge, swelling up, the beautiful swans taken by surprise, riding the torrent, being swept down under the bridge and reappearing the other side like unsuccessful suicides, their mysterious eyes shocked and black, their mysterious grace unassailed” (page 125).

How often in life are we like these swans where we’re taken by surprise, and are uncontrollably swept under a bridge of sorts, tumbled and shocked and surprised to have actually made it to the other side? An event, or a circumstance in our life where, while in the midst, we wonder if we ever will make it through without crumbling and shattering to pieces?

But we do.

What I find to be the beauty of the paragraph is the image of the swan at the other side of the bridge. The harrowing tumultuousness of being sucked under, out of control and at the mercy of someone or something else, but yet making it through with an “unassailable” grace.

At the moment there are several people in my life who are being swept under bridges.

But in every case, EVERY case, each person I know will be like the swan and make it through to the other side. They may blink their eyes in surprise, but they will maintain a sense of grace through it all and be all the stronger.


Car Wash Conundrums

I washed my RAV the other day. It’s the first longish spell of springtime weather and I’ve got the windows opened, the condo is clean the vehicle…the RAV WAS clean.

I KNEW it was going to happen.

That little niggling voice at the back of my brain kept warning me “don’t do it. It’s puddley out. The forecast calls for more snow. Water is running down the streets”. All the evidence pointed towards a shiny vehicle short-lived. Mother Nature was shouting “DON”T DO IT! IT”S NOT TIME!” But did I listen?


I wanted shine and sparkle to go along with the opened sunroof. Instead I got dirt grime and muddied windows.

I spent the time and energy (and $11.95 I’ll have you know) on something that only lasted two days.

And as I came to this understanding I realized that quite often this type of thing happens in life.

Remember when you were in high school and you liked a certain boy. So you make sure you’re in his line of vision in class or at a game. You buy a new shirt that you just happen to know is his favorite colour. Day after day you wake up two hours earlier so you can curl your hair (or I guess the girls nowadays are straightening theirs) and look as pretty as can be and…

…. back to the car wash you go, because he asked out ANOTHER girl.

As a teacher, you spend time and time and time preparing a lesson on, oh, let’s say, how to write a thematic statement. You practice in class. You coach and encourage and create opportunities for learning and then an exam comes along and…

…back to the carwash you go to revamp the lesson.

Or you decide to be domestic and bake a batch of banana bread. You let the bananas get to the optimum ripeness required for baking. You buy the ingredients. Carefully follow the recipe. Make batter large enough so every member of your family and the entire floor of your condo (hey, you have moments of neighborliness) can have a loaf. Then you pull the pans out of the oven and realize you forgot to put in baking soda so you now have copious amounts of what looks like banana biscuits instead of banana loaf so…

…back to the carwash you go, this time just to dispose of the catastrophe and eat handfuls of leftover chocolate chips.

So, I figure if life is filled with returns to the carwash, you might as well go through the really BIG puddles and make it worth your while.

Valentines Day: A day of Bacteria, Calamity and Vexation


February 14.

A time when every store display is cinnamon heart red and a Pepto Bismol pink.

Jittery line-ups at flower shops and jewelry stores.

A time when school children get their parents to buy kits of cards or crates of craft paper, enough for ALL the kids in the class. When I was little, we’d spend an art class making “mailboxes” for our Valentines. Each child would bring to school an empty cereal or tissue box to decorate with paper and stickers and glitter and bows. I once made mine with little “barn” doors. At the end of the day we’d all traipse up and down the aisles of desks, playing mailman with our bundle of cards and dropping them in the appropriate boxes.

The number of Valentines you recieved was VERY important. It didn’t matter who they were from, just as long as you had more than the snotty pretty girl who sat at the front of the class in her new red velvet dress and black patent leather shoes.

I can’t ever remember LOVING Valentines Day. Sure, I’ve received roses and cards and chocolate and jewelry. Once a beau of mine even presented me with seat covers for my truck (yeah… no points, not even for originality, for that one.) All these gifts seemed “romantic” at the time but looking back they were just candy floss sugary sweet and dissolved just as quickly.

Which brings me to the legend of St. Valentine. There are a couple of stories about the guy. My favorite is the one where he, in defiance of Emperor Claudius II, married Christian couples in secret. Valentine was a shit disturber! He was a fellow who decided to go against the edict of the emperor (a tyrant from what I’ve read). He recognized an injustice that stood in the way of goodness and decided to something about it.

Heroic, not self-serving.

St. Valentine. The patron Saint of love. But, ironically, he is also the patron saint of the plague. Dictionary.com’s definitions of plague are:

1. an epidemic disease that causes high mortality; pestilence.

2. an infectious, epidemic disease caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, characterized by fever, chills, and prostration.

3. any widespread affliction, calamity

4. any cause of trouble, annoyance, or vexation.

Now thiiiiiink about this. Think honestly. Think carefully at your history with romantic love. Kinda fits some portions of these definitions doesn’t it? Especially in high school. Or University. Or well into adulthood for some of us. Funnily enough I was browsing through some ancient artifacts stored in my trunk. Journals from college and university that are filled with all sorts of insecure angst about boyfrienda nd I was reminded that many a time I flung myself prostrate on my bed wishing and wanting and wondering about a certain boy. AND many a time calamity, trouble, annoyance and most certainly vexation followed.

Since then, however, I haven’t been much of a romantic. I don’t think I’ve become hardened or stoic, I just think I’ve become a bit more introspective and sensible. (Well I should hope so at my age!)

Now I think the most romantic notion is…

consistency over time.

Not words.

Not purchases.

Not public proclamations on social networking sites.

But actions and decisiveness and dependability…

…oh, and undying devotion and adoration doesn’t hurt either! : )

What Dreams May Come

I’ve been having some pretty vivid dreams lately so I thought I’d repost this one!

I dream. Vividly. Sometimes I write them down but most often I forget and their images dissipate minutes after waking up. Some dreams are bizzare. Some poignant. Most are merely random in nature.

When I was in junior high I dreamt my mom died and came back as a fish. We kept her in a tank in the dining room and every day when my sisters and I came home from school we’d tap on the glass and say “mom, we’re home!” I don’t remember feeling sad about it all because Mom was still in my life, albeit in a fishy form. I don’t think any “expert” in dream analysis could ever come up with an explanation for this one but it probably had to do with being 13 and wanting to keep the power my mother had over me contained in an itty bitty glass bowl.

Several dreams have been covert and adventuous in nature like these two:

One, where I’m hunting Nazis in old folks homes in Afghanistan. I find a few. Can’t remember what I did with them once I found them but I knew they were going to get what was coming to them and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

And the other : my job, if I chose to take it (and I did) was to defuse a bomb at the bottom of a swimming pool. I was doing a fine job until my sister kept phoning my cell wondering “when I was picking her up to go shopping.” HELLO I’m defusing a bomb here!!

A dream that always makes me contemplative is the one where I had to carve feet for one of my students. Shaye was a new student and he had such sad , haunted eyes. I never knew his story but I had a feeling it was one a young kid shouldn’t have to live. The feet I carved were made of a rich red /brown mahogany wood. They were beautiful and smooth and perfect. Then, in this same dream, an older lady unknown to me took the feet, looked at them and told me to “carve scars and blisters and veins because life is a journey we walk that strengthens our soles/souls” (I knew she meant both).

My favorite dreams of all are my flying dreams. The dreams are always the same. All I have to do is move my arms in a swimming motion (usually a side stroke or a breast stroke) and I’m soaring above the ground. I love these dreams but they are few and far between. I wish I could conjure up my flying dreams whenever I sink into sleep. In them, I have complete control over where I go, how high up I go, and how fast I go. I think this dream is wishful thinking on behalf of my subconscience. Once in awhile it would be nice to be in total control, over events that come my way.

Some people have told me they never dream, or if they do, they never remember if they had. There are some mornings (especially after a night of hunting Nazis) where I wish my brain could shift into screen saver mode in order to conserve neuronic energy, but most often I’m kinda happy to experience the impossible and have stories to tell.

Are you a dreamer?

Lessons my Oven Taught Me

About a month ago I decided to bake blueberry muffins.

For those that know me, the fact that I was even entertaining the idea of domesticity was indeed a Christmas miracle.

Anyhoo… whilst I was making the batter and pre-heating the oven, I began to smell something burning. Nothing catastrophic, there was no smoke, but it was enough to make me turn off my oven. It was probably the element burning the dust off because it had been a couple of mon…*ahem* …it had been “awhile” since I had used my oven. So I promptly turned it back on.

And…the light didn’t go on. You know the light I’m talking about, the little red one under the temperature “bake” or “broil” button. “Oh no! “ I thought to myself. “My oven has broken! Whatever shall I do?” Ok, this wasn’t quite my internal dialogue which was somewhat peppered with “colourful” language. So, I waited a few more minutes then tried again. Still no light. So I did what most people do when it a crisis

and posted my crisis as a Facebook status.

And got all sorts of diagnostics! It could be the fuse. Or the element. Probably the top element.

Next, I phoned my dad who figured it was probably the fuse. So I found the fuse and struggled with all my might to remove it from the panel but with no luck. So I took a picture of it with my cell phone and emailed it to him. But alas, the image was too dark for him to assess the problem. So, before I sent for the repairman my father (the hero in most of my emergency situations), came over, with a pair of pliers so he could remove the fuse, but not before trying the oven.

And lo and behold it worked.

And I’ve figured out why. I freaked out over the smell, quickly turned off the oven and when I turned it back on the light didn’t glow red I ASSUMED the oven was broken. The light only turns on when the oven is heating up to the temperature you have set. Once it reaches that temperature the light turns off.

And my oven was still warm, at the temperature reached and therefore didn’t have the little light glow red.

For an entire month I believed my oven was broken when,

in fact,

it wasn’t.

Everything was at it should be, but I needed the light as proof. Evidence that things were working.

I sooo do this in life. I think the worse case scenario if I can see proof of success when I think I SHOULD see it. I get hung up on having to see physical evidence rather than believe in the sincerity of others.

I need to meddle and pester and check and re-check for confirmation, usually in an effort to confirm my suspicions…

which is really quite sad when you think about it.

Most preconceived notions are about as substantial as cotton candy.

Really, we don’t need to see little red lights in order to believe that the mechanics of life are in working order.

We don’t need proof of happiness. We just need to believe in happiness.

The order WE establish is insignificant,

contentment exists silently and unobtrusively waiting for us to just sit back,



and discover it for ourselves.

Hopefully it won’t take months of believing fallacies before we discover it as so.