Category Archives: teaching

Into The Books

Looking for many hidden dragons and finding the gorilla sneaking into the zoo keeper’s bed were just a couple of the adventures I shared with a three year old child yesterday. Among other things such as little pigs making big messes and needing hidden kisses from a mother racoon we also considered how to detangle the horns of the wild reindeer so that they could be harnessed to fly. Worries about everything a three year old and her parents might worry about such as going to school and deciding what costume to wear in a parade and listening to the wisdom of a very cool laid-back grandma were covered in depth.It was a very full story hour or two and intense enough for my over sixty years old self. However,it was a precious part of her three year old day along with her special gifts, family and fun around her. This little patch of the day, shoulder to shoulder finding ourselves inside the storybooks together, sharing the stories,art and wonder. The blessing for me was to hear the tiny sighs and laughter responding to my telling and pointing out and questioning either the obvious or the insightful. You had to have been there.

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Mixed Messages

He walked over to my friend and asked her for money but also told her why he needed it. When he turned to me he was still telling his best story, leaning in a bit, rather shaky and not totally coherent. The bottom line being he needed a couple of dollars to buy a slice of pizza because he had used up all his money helping his sister.

This fellow was making the best of the steady flow of people going into an evening performance at the theatre and zeroed in on us. Well, he had a prepared story anyhow and we gave him a little money despite the awkwardness of the situation. Entering the theatre, my son waiting for us at the entrance gently commented on what we had done .He felt it encouraged such individuals to panhandle and that he encounters another fellow everyday requesting money from him using a standard tale about needing bus money at the same spot during the morning rush to work.

Later when we left the concert and the crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk there was yet another man, seated in a doorway, holding up a cardboard sign, not saying a word but scanning the crowd for possible benefactors. Troubled by this and wondering if I should give him something also, I managed to get by and out of range of the guilt factor of not handing over a coin. At this point, hours later I’m wondering what the message on his sign said. I’m wondering about his story.

At dinner earlier the stories were about me involving my struggle to get a technical computer program problem straightened out so I can write for my own enjoyment and my storytelling preparations for an evening presentation I’m giving at the local library. My friend shared her stories about getting things packed for her trip to the cottage and also the elaborate vacation some good friends of hers had just taken. In between these stories we spoke about a great many other things such as lost children, a terrible local tragedy and our sadness about the recent passing of a talented actor who we felt we knew a little somehow because we admired his work so much. Of course we didn’t know his story at all and didn’t foresee the ending.

In the theatre, the showcased performer provided an amazing concert letting her music reach us on it’s own merit, no explanation given or required. During the performance her storytelling was there all the time through her wonderful trained voice and everyone in the audience was steeped in the richness of her range and style. Many thoughts and impressions stirred in my mind based on the experience and I was aware of the awe of the other audience members as they enjoyed the concert in their individual ways. So many different memories, impressions and stories must have been inspired by her tonight.

In the lobby I encountered a woman, visibly unwell but attended by friends.

A friend I haven’t seen for awhile reached out to me at intermission when I reached out to her. We have some shared childhood experiences and our stories are very different but there is a feeling of understanding there. We will find the time and talk.

My son’s story is all about his work, his art and doing what he has to do, right now. It’s all about telling a story and creating a shelter from reality. He has his responsibilities and he also has his creative adventures. At the moment it is challenging, meaningful and ambitious.

Hours later, I’m wondering about the man, seated on the busy sidewalk who quietly held his cardboard sign. The sign I didn’t read.

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While the fluoride treatment completed its adhering process and I couldn’t eat an already postponed meal, I decided to browse for interesting things at the newish charity shop in town. Looking more for that special shabby literary farmhouse item rather than anything else I was ready to be charmed with a quaint but clever treasure.
Despite the large, well presented and clean ambience of the shop there wasn’t much that beckoned to me. Christmas in July was everywhere as a promotion theme and it rather saddened than cheered. In my mind I kept trying to visualize the people long associated with these items, gathered together with friends and family in urban and rural settings experiencing their own celebrations. Hundreds of Christmas mugs mixed together with dusty sprigs of holly has that effect on me.
After a couple of workarounds the entire store realizing rather thankfully there wasn’t anything I really needed or wanted I noticed a little boy with his grandparents. The little fellow was pleased to have found a Christmas bell and was ringing it to the delight of his indulgent grandpa and the aggravation of his less impressed grandma.
As I walked further to the back of the store towards the assorted used books I continued to hear the little bell .
Once engrossed in the books I forgot to listen for the bell and instead focused on finding my own treasure, scanning for titles and authors on my wish list. I found two almost immediately. Instead of being content with just the two I continued on and of course there were many others on the shelves enticing me to save them and take them with me. It was a couple of real oldies that seemed to unnerve me or perhaps it was just my sentimentality coming to the surface once more.
Leaving the book area finally and approaching the clerk’s desk to pay for the two selected books I gave a backward glance to the others but carried on sensibly ready to pay and depart smartly. Engaged in a bookish talk with the friendly clerk I found out that she had a whole collection of the one author and that reaffirmed my interest in the treasure I’d found. The other book by a much more famous author didn’t get discussed. I just wanted it anyway for my shelf. To sit there most likely unread for some bizarre reason. Some books are like that for me.
At my elbow came a soft chuckly and refined voice asking me if I was stocking up for my summer reading. The rather short person there was a long ago school friend. We chatted a little about those school days and neighbourhood and our shared love of books. She looked so much older and past her prime than she should, like some of the Christmas items surrounding us, and suddenly a little bell went off.

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Just A Phase

Drastic measures have been taken but only after some careful consideration of the dilemnas of the parties concerned. Those parties comprise of my old delicate, somewhat prim cat Frances, my adult son working at an exciting new job in the big city about two hours away, Miss Moneypenny ,his year old bulldog staying with me for a couple of months and myself, retired teacher. This assessment has come to be as a result of the full moon and Miss Moneypenny getting in touch with her inner werewolf.

Two days ago, the moon was full and Miss Moneypenny’s behaviour went from somewhat stubborn to somewhat obnoxious. She would not let me read my book and demanded my attention by jumping forcibly on my lap. While playing with toys it became quite evident that she wanted to tussle and wrestle rather than just have fun. Her expression changed from wide eyed innocent to ‘I’m gonna’ get you!”. Her funny little gurumphs and snuffles turned into big old yappy barks. When I felt the nip on my hand I knew she was at her limit of goodnatured play and succumbing to the dark side.

Responding to my big NO with a she wolf battle stance and a saucy head snap which is best described as a “oh no you didn’t!…” kind of attitude she tried to take dominant status in the house.  I put her in the crate and walked away and she slept all afternoon.

So considering all the needs of everyone concerned I had to re-establish some control over the situation and reclaim some authority in the house. I picked up every toy and chew bone and stored them away out of sight. Nothing was left to out to play with or left on the floor for me to trip over. Food bowls were kept empty except for water. When Miss Moneypenny was released from her crate rest session she was taken outside for her walk and breaks and returned to a quiet, no toy, no food situation that seemed to intrigue her interest for about an hour. She walked around and around the coffee table looking at me with little humble head snaps as if to say “Oh no, you didn’t take my stuff all away and I’ll be good if you give it back, I promise…please give me back my Lion, Rhino, chew things, Mr. Rope and my food.”

We started with food but only after she responded well to a command. Delighted with her food, and another outside break she came back in the house waiting for the next treat but she was commanded to get on her bed and stay. Well, she got on the dog bed but she will never learn stay. Too stubborn about learning stay, so whatever.  Anyway, she seemed rather pleased that I had adopted this more military approach to dog boarding and adapted nicely. I’m almost enjoying my dog sitting duties again.

She still needs constant supervision to avoid chewing disasters but seems more at ease and willing to do most of what I command her to do. Bored quickly with my quiet ways of reading, working on the computer and watching costume dramas on television she starts rooting around my stuff in another room looking for something to chew, eat and destroy. Like now.

Old, delicate, cat Frances remains outside during the day and well into the night as a survival tactic with her issues of dog integration into the household unresolved. My adult son continues to work in the big city at his new job responding cryptically to my frequent emails outlining the pros and cons of HIS dog.  My frustration level has been reached but my good nature has been restored by taking account of the situation and doing what I had to do.  This post ends here while I go and get her out of my bedroom and put her into her crate again for another little rest. Sometimes you just have to be a bitch.

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Shelf Life

Here and there and everywhere little sentiments are in the forefront of my rather significant collection of favourite books on my bookshelves. A picture of  my Dad and myself, another of my mom and a niece, my ( retirement) brass school bell,  “Mumma’s” delicate rose and blue china cup, my son’s baby photo, a neutral faced  theatre mask, a carved wooden angel holding a bountiful floral garland, two die-cut cards from my son, figurines of dogs, birds, old souls and a snow globe shaker containg a picture of my sweet departed cat, are a fair representation of what is gathered there.

These things sit usually at the corners of the bookshelves but often are moved to centre place when access to the books hiding behind them are sought. Books are so plentiful that they are stacked vertically on the shelves rather than horizontally. Another bookcase might be purchased soon if my budget can stand it.

My books are organized at this moment in my life. The two top shelves are dedicated to classic literature as I feel that is only fitting for Shakespeare and those I’ve grouped with him there. On the next level are two full shelves of Canadian literature full of strange, often grim but treasured thought. On the shelves beneath contemporary American and European literature balance each other well.Further down, the two lower shelves begin to appear archive like holding assorted children’s books, art books, (several) books on the monarchy, some of my Aunt Bea’s book club books, baskets of CD’s and a few photo albums. Dear Maeve Binchy has an entire lower shelf dedicated solely to herself as she helped me survive my divorce twenty eight years ago. She provided the wholesome comfort of gentle romance when I was dashed and broken by my own decision to remove myself from my marriage. She stays on her shelf for all time, not ever in my lifetime to be culled in a book clearout as she deserves a permanent home.

The really old books that I collect are relegated to my bookshelves built into my bedroom. Among this assortment are my treasured old school readers, honoured for being the delicate rare taste of literature I was exposed to as a very young child. Along these shelves are little ornaments my mother kept so special in her heart. Things like little wooden shoes that have their own story,small framed pictures of Dad, my brother and an eccentric uncle, little flower vases she liked are arranged amongst the books and Bibles stored there.

All the cookbooks I’ve collected fill another full bookshelf in the small family room beside the kitchen. Several of these books are hand written or collections of recipes from my family’s heritage pasted into old scrapbooks. Many books about gardening and healing are also propped up there. These shelves are decorated with some funky pottery and woven baskets.

The spillage of books and sentimental clutter often needs to be tidied and refreshed. At the moment,  a good couple of hours dedicated to decluttering, putting things away, sorting through some recently acquired books from the used book store and other housekeeping duties is most likely a good idea. If only I had  the luxury of a daily domestic helper, like Maeve often described in her books these things might be more consistently done.  It is perhaps better that I do this work myself. After all, I know where things belong.

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Happy Valentine’s Day Bat Boy !

A little bit of a chorus line, mixed with a gospel revival and a tad of mid summer night’s dream..oh and some my fair lady with a dash of Saturday night live …and that’s how my valentine’s celebration at the theatre tonight turned out.  The production of Bat Boy at the Mc Manus Theatre, (Grand Theatre) London, Ont., Canada runs until February 23. Tonight was opening night and I plan to go again several times. To say it is an unusual story is an understatement. What I experienced was an intriguing night of entertainment and I took away the message that the ones we shouldcomfort, love and protect are vulnerable to danger, mistrust and ignorance and we are often too damaged ourselves to really sort these problems out. Pretty much, that’s the lesson in a nutshell. Oh yeah, did I mention that my wonderful son, who never thinks just inside the box, is the director…?.(and set designer…and other stuff.) Quite the musical !

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On The Fringe

Approximately a whole month has gone by since I posted a blog but I’ve often thought about it, so I guess that counts for something. It has been a month of some home reno projects coming to relative completion, dealing with my on going issues with my sore leg, babysitting my son’s active bulldog puppy Moneypenny (renamed Cannonball by me when she is here tearing things apart) and being glued to events unfolding in the form of hurricane Sandy, watching news coverage of the big election and all the news about international politics and unrest.

Somehow, my little blog of musings seems insignificant by comparison.

As the home renovations are finished up I’m faced with putting back the furniture and tossing out the unnecessary things that have been clutterring up the place for months. Some stuff I’m simply bagging up and getting rid of it either in the form of garbage or donations.An example of this is the assortment of inspirational wall plaques I’ve collected over the years. Seems like I’m happy to let them go now but maybe I could hang on to them and hang a different one up each week on a rotating basis for old times sake. Things I’ve hung on to for many reasons but no longer need could be better used by someone who really needs them.

Having the puppy ricochet around here for overnight visits is simply wearing me out but all in all I enjoy having her around, buy her treats and drop everything to take care of her. Her nutty antics make me upset at times as she is too much dog for my sore leg to handle but she makes me realize my limitations and forces me to work on improving my health despite the aggravation, pain and aches. Her nutty antics also make me smile and provide lots of material for my storytelling. let’s just say she keeps me on my toes.

World events, politics and the impact and recovery from Hurricane Sandy have shaken me out of an apathetic mind set as I truly wish for solutions for all concerned.As a result, here I sit at the fringe of the blog world simply checking in, showing up and letting you all know that a simplified life is my personal goal, I’ll do what I can to keep on going strong and work on my global understanding and rely on my faith that better times will somehow overcome these present difficulties.


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Two Markets, Two Markets To Buy Great Stuff….

At the very edge of an ancient woodlot, beside the old mill pond and behind a heritage general store, the Coldstream Market in Middlesex Centre, Ontario quietly conducts friendly business. There are a few signs pointing the way in the immediate area and a general newsletter outlining details of the local initiative was sent out earlier in the rural mail. About five or six people set up their displays on the back of pickup trucks or card tables under the shade of the towering trees. It just happens, like a pleasant and simple event during the growing and harvest season and I just love it.
The selection today was canned chili sauce, relish, handcrafted linens, all kinds of vegetables, homemade catering samples,maple syrup,eggs, flowers, homebaking and jewellery.
I came home with chili sauce made by my next door neighbour, eggs from the lady who goes to my church, vegetables from another neighbour just a little further down the road, bread from our Komoka bakery that specializes in gingerbread and a beautiful bracelet made by a young designer, Mylie. I decorated my front porch with an assortment of squash and made myself the best tomato sandwich from fresh flax and soya blend bread. I bought the gorgeous homegrown tomatoes from the catering fellow who lives in my Grandpa Walter’s house where I used to play fifty years or so ago.
Usually I am rather late getting to the market (as I am a retired writing night owl) but this morning I was one of their early birds. I had time to visit with everyone…and I know (almost) everyone and their brother and sister there…. and savour the laid back experience.
With time on my hands I also made a short trip to the slightly bigger Ilderton’s Farmer’s Market just down the road. This market has only started up this year and seems to be in a very good location for attracting customers. A festive fall mood of decorated haywagons, displays of pumpkins, tables of a variety of goodies such as homemade candles, vegetables, a couple of jewellery displays, baby wear, gourmet garlic, flour products from a local mill and frozen meats all tempted the visitors. A scavenger hunt was even organized for the little ones as they examined the plentiful displays with their parents. My purchases were gourmet garlic, a knitted baby hat and some frozen meat. I get a charge out of this market too as although I know many people there I am also making new aquaintances as a result of the friendly market atmosphere.
Stocked to the gills for yet another week I do not need to do anymore grocery shopping and I’ve even made a few purchases to put away for Christmas gifts. I have a feeling that I am a favourite shopper at both of these markets as I tend to go a bit crazy and buy an abundance of lovely things.
The people involved in these small local farmer’s markets are the real treasures as we share the morning together. Making contact with all these hardworking, friendly and talented people is delightful…and to think that I’ve bought several funky creative bracelets from the up and coming jewellery designer, Mylie…. while she is in the sixth grade…. is just way cool.


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Full and Overflowing

There are four jewellry boxes in my possession and they are full of things I will rarely, if ever use. Old costume jewellery mostly. Some better stuff and a few modern artisitic pieces.
A wooden box contains a small blue soft bristled hairbrush that also rattles,a couple of golden baby curls, a yellow knitted baby bonnet ,my grandmother’s locket and a broken pocketwatch belonging to my father. If there ever was a fire I’d grab this box first but also scramble to carry out the other three as well. I would say the value of these items in their entirety might be worth less than a hundred dollars. More than likely, that is a high estimate.
So why are these things so precious in sentimental value to me?
The second box is a vinyl relic filled with my mother’s costume jewellery collection of multicoloured beads and dimestore brooches. They are things she wore to church or on very rare occassions when she dressed up. Determined, hardworking and feisty she made the best of things.
The third battered box is crammed full to the brim with my aunt’s clip on and screw tight earrings.She was a favourite aunt, bleached blonde, sporty and fun. She consistently wore yellow, orange or variations of these colours in plaid. When she came to visit us, my sister and I would hide her tartan suitcase so she couldn’t go home again. I hope someday my neices and nephews think of me, even if just a little, like this.
The final box is my jewellery box. It is a vintage style, pop-up jewellery box decorated in a detailed Japanese motif.My collection of sparkly pins, seasonal badges and buttons from school parties and events, thoughtful trinkets from family and friends, an extensive collection of artisitic looking bracelets and hippie style necklaces fill it to overflowing.
Most of it is just old stuff in these four boxes but it represents more than I can ever hope to express. It just does.

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Unique Stay Awhile Style

First time inside the door today and I was gently overwhelmed by the adorable vintage feel of the small place but within seconds I was ready to order a nice lunch at The Bag Lady Variety. Located  at Pall St. (at Maitland), in London Ontario, Canada it is the sweetest little retreat , somewhat off the beaten track of regular coffee shops and diners. I honestly felt like I had been dropped into another time period. The feel of the place is very relaxed and I noticed several people writing in journals, reading and get this.. interacting with other friendly customers! Two large store front windows open up the view to an established leafy neighbourhood while the decor inside is retro comfy. Seriously, when I came home I got all of my crocheted throws out of the blanket box and draped them around just to mimic the mood of the place.

The yummy food is prepared in a tiny open kitchen which is fascinating to peek through at while watching three of four people maneuver very carefully around each other as they work behind the counter.  Lots of takeout orders were rustled up while I was there blissfully relaxing at one of the old-fashioned kitchen table sets. I think the local professional crowd of workers are loving the convenience of takeout lunches but the laid back, sit and daydream types like myself  delight in the atmosphere as much as the food. My lunch was homemade tasty and the coffee was good and hot. Oh, and they get points for having the right kind of soft folksy music playing too.

I know I’ll be going back when I’m in town doing my daytime artsy theatre/writing adventures Monday through Friday 7:30 am-4:00pm (as if I’d ever be up at 7:30 am nowadays..ha!), or on Saturday and Sunday 9:00 am-2:00pm. I purchased a gift certificate for a lucky friend and a really good brownie for the road. You can’t have too much of a good thing!

It was a rather special experience today as it felt like I was among friends…including the charming staff and the patrons.


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