Thursday, July 29, 2010

TI♥T: Pork

All week I've been excited about an event I'm going to tonight. But excited in a nostalgic, wistful, girlish kind of way. In some ways that's a bit odd since it's really just a social media-related meetup, and I've been to several of those. I always meet cool & interesting people, but there's no real reason to get all giddy. Except for one small phrase in the midst of the description of this particular meetup:

 We will be having a pig roast ...
Ah, pig roasts. It has been at least 30 years since I was at a true pig roast. When I was between the ages of 4 and 12 my family and I lived in or near company housing provided by my Father's employer about 30 minutes outside the little town we were imprisoned at. As part of the routine maintenance, the houses were painted every 2 years - in one year they'd be painted on the outside, and two years later they'd be painted on the inside. And so on. And, every 2 years the same painter - Andy - would get the job.

I don't know that Andy was his real name, or if that was an Anglicized version of his Hungarian name, but either way this boisterous, friendly Hungarian with his wild gypsy moustache and small crew would descend upon the housing, paint the clapboard white and the trim any one of 4 or 5 colours (it looked a little bit like a rainbow - Beats in the blue house, Dales in the pink house, Olsons in the green house, Enses in the yellow house, Dodges in the blue house at the other end, etc). We'd watch the scaffolding proceed down the road. Knowing the routine, but still treating it with great excitement.

And, every two years, in appreciation for the generous contract that likely sustained his small-business, Andy would - at the end of his labours - give back to us a pig roast. And what a pig roast. A real split-pig carcass - snout to tail - was skewered and spit roasted all-day over a slow burning fire, ferociously tended by the men of the compound - the fire fueled by pine logs, and the men fueled by pilsner. On the first few instances the spit was hand cranked, a hot, tiring job that required frequent changes of manpower. Being the ingenious and mechanincally minded types the men of the compound were, the hand crank was soon replaced with a motor crank, but the constant attention and pilsner-fueled supervision were never modified.

Meanwhile, the rest of the feast was being prepared in the community hall that housed the most amazing parties any kid could hope to attend - Christmas, Halloween, retirements, and Andy's pig roasts - we'd have salads of every description, including jell-o salad in molds (hey, it was the 70's) and baked potatos and soft white rolls (hey, it was the 70's) and all kind of desserts, and the jukebox would play one of it's 23 songs that never got changed, and then the meat would be brought in - smoky and hot and succulent. If you were lucky, your dad might have snuck you a piece of cracklin' - the subcutaneous fat the sizzled and smoked and turned into perfect savoury treats. We'd eat, and dance about, and giggle with our friends.

Sometimes the pilsner got the better of a man or two. My family didn't drink, and I can remember being confused why a certain Mr. of the bunch fell asleep in his potatoes one year. But the over-whelming feeling of community and connectedness and abundance and appreciation is something I'll never forget. And something I've lamented being able to re-create for my sons.

So I'm excited about the pig roast tonight. I know it won't be the same. And that largely I'll be among strangers. There likely won't be any molded jell-o salads, and I hope no one 'falls asleep' in their potatos.

But all the same I'm excited.

Now if I could only remember what it is one wears to a pig roast - especially one that combines business networking and the chance to kayak.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Freedom to be. Beautiful

I love flowers. Which is a really really incomplete and simplistic statement of the deep satisfaction I get from having flowers around me - from cultivating & nurturing them, as well as from looking at and photographing them. And sometimes even from attempting to paint them.

People have asked me in the past what my favourite flower is, and I find it as hard to choose as I do for a favourite book or a favourite word. There is such a variety of colours, shapes, textures, scents - how could one ever be better than the other?

Since moving into my almost-empty nest I've been studying a design/lifestyle book called Apartment Therapy. While the book was written for people who are tired and stagnant in their home spaces, I thought I would be pro-active and follow the steps as I settle in and design my space around my new life. I can't say that I've perfectly followed the eight week schedule, largely because I haven't had the money to do take on some of the design and decor issues I've identified, but it has been a great resource for settling in, planning, and generating ideas for how my space will be in about a year.

One thing I have made sure to do though is follow the suggestion to buy myself fresh flowers every week. Each Friday, no matter what else I have going on, I make sure to replenish the bouquet on my table. Most weeks I've tossed out the old, but some of the flowers have been long lasting and ended up blending with whatever came next. Right now I have a stunning batch of bright orange lilies mingling with sweet-faced white spotted alstromeria.

I look at them - the brightness. The vibrancy. The simple joy of them. And I am reminded every time that the flowers don't have to do or be anything to bring joy and beauty to the world. They are simply and fully themselves. There is nothing wrong as they begin to wither. As they are recut, dead-headed, trimmed and re-arranged. They have simply done what they can do - what they were created to do - and moved on. As Matthew pointed out, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow ; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

It seems I am not the only person who sees deeper lessons in the gift of flowers. A friend sent me a link today to this online project, which immediately spoke to my heart. The Lily Movement uses the simple elegance of the lily to honour, connect, and encourage people. Pamela's vision is

... to create a virtual global flower garden, both in the form of lily paintings and in the form of people….recognizing that each of us is a flower, so to speak, in this garden we call Life…on Earth. And to see how far across the world this “garden” can spread.
I'm moved by the kindred-spiritness of what Pamela is creating. It's simple and lovely, much like flowers themselves. Pamela also donates 20% of her proceeds to worthy causes, and that's something I can always get behind.

Go bloom. Be your own unfurling blossom. And I think I'll continue on that journey myself.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shine Glow Glimmer Sparkle

Tuesday is my creativity night - the night of the week I set aside to sing, paint, play piano, write or just play in some other way I often neglect. Last week was my first time in a long while returning to my choir and it was an amazing reminder of just how much I love to 'make a joyful noise' and how easy it is for me to neglect doing the things that make me feel the me-iest.

Tonight I am 'just' blogging. Of all the creative things I love to do, blogging is the one I do the most frequently. Sometimes it feels like cheating, since it's not really a stretch to blog. And, recently it hasn't been frequent enough. I feel like when I don't journal - either online or in one of my lovely bound journals - thoughts get stuck in my head. They languish in back eddys. They stagnate and die.

And then the reminders start. The twitter DMs and Facebook posts - where's the blog? Are you blog bogged? And the reminders that people read this make me want to not say anything. It's easy to be frank when I think no one is out there.

The thing is, I love blogging mostly, but lately I just want to mull things over. Work has been amazing and somewhat intense. I'm adjusting to working 5 days a week again, to growing and stretching in my new position, and to the opportunity and challenge that having a job I really care about is. It's an honour to contribute to a great organization that contributes to our community. An honour, and a little bit of self-imposed pressure that I'm trying to let go.

Being a mom never ends even though both my beautiful BBs are stretching their wings. There are growing pains. And great triumphs.

Meanwhile, I'm having my own growing pains and great triumphs.

I'm working my way through a great little book - if the Buddha dated - and while I don't know how much is sinking in it's illuminating and a welcome change from trying to figure out for myself what gets in the way of my letting love in. Last night I started to really wonder - am I more afraid of being loved or of not being loved? How that question has repeatedly shown up is in vascillating between being strong and independent ("I don't need you!") and being desperate and clingy ("I'm nothing without you"). So I say things I don't mean and send mixed signals and confuse myself as much as anyone who is inclined to get close to me. I'm saying things like "it drives me nuts when people act like they are in a relationship after 3 dates" and then wanting the reassurance of the instant relationship, even though my experience has been that doesn't work.

I know, and I hope you know, neither of those extremes are me. I'm the girl in the middle - dancing, laughing, singing, painting, strong and connected, alive and shining. In all my relationships - whether you kiss me or not.

Miss Lady told me a brilliant theory recently. She said it comes from Chinese philosophy, but then she says that about a lot of things. ♥ Anyway, the analogy is one that speaks to me: love is like a cauldron hanging over a fire. It doesn't take very long to bring a small cauldron to the boil, but it will soon boil dry. And if it's removed from the heat the smaller cauldron cools down quickly. On the other hand, it may take a large cauldron longer to boil in the first place, but it can take the heat for longer and will retain the heat long after the initial fire burns out.

(I think Miss Lady probably sounded much wiser and more zen-like when she said it.)

So maybe this blog post isn't creative. Maybe I should have worked on my painting or played my piano. And here it is, none-the-less. The title  may seem more optimistic than realistic at this point. But I know that when I'm really me - the girl people gravitate to, me unleashed and uncensored by my fears - I shine and sparkle. Tonight I'm not that. But I am here, holding a small spark protected in the palm of my hand. Nurturing the ember and urging it on so I can let my little light shine again.

A belated thing I like: Fashion blogging

My friend Jodi has just burst out of the blogger closet, and she's doing so with style, verve, and a little advice. Jodi is one of the most stylish people I know, mostly because she holds herself with such confidence. It's not just the impeccable and complete outfits, but the way she wears them.

Check out her pics, tips and guest posts (yes, I do love pink!) at

Friday, July 9, 2010

In the beginning

I started a painting tonight. One for me. One I've been planning for a while but not beginning. I have never once thought of myself as a painter. I've just used paint to make pictures which people may or may not like to hang on their walls. Glassboat liked his, though I wonder sometimes whatever happened to them and on what move he left them behind. I know Freckles likes her - she even leaves them hanging when I'm not visiting. But I'm not a painter. I don't even do it often enough to call it a hobby. It's more of a creative aberration.

Mostly, when people see I have an easel I explain that sometimes I like to paint and then use that as a springboard for writing. I know real painters. People like my mom, and my grandma, and Dj. People who worked at it and studied the art. Who practiced colour mixing and proportion. Who took classes and sought after something. Or who at the very least felt a drive and a desire to regularly get their hands mucky and see what came out.

I much prefer to create worlds with words - I have a sense that I have achieved some mastery there. I have fewer concerns and a quieter censor when words creep across the page to reveal my inner world than I do when I squeeze paint onto a pallette and begin scraping it across a canvas with a knife.

The act of painting, for me, is so physical and visceral. It's a total divergence from my oh-so internal and reflective writing process. I like long slashing strokes, slippery gobs of paint, splashes of contrast, large canvases soaked and dripping. It's messy, and organic, and fluid. Delicate floral watercolours do not appeal to me, though nature and flora are often the subject. Painting, to me, feels like capturing or being captured by the forces of nature. And I'm no Jackson Pollack, by any means. Squiggles and urine and wall-sized abstractions are not my goal. But I do have to do a lot of clean up when I'm done a session.

What's really striking to me in this moment, as I sit across the table from my easel, a canvas 75% full of black and burnt umber swirls staring back at me damply, is how far the beginning is from the end result.

The thing is, we don't know where things are going to end. You could never guess from seeing the canvas as it is right now what I'm actually trying to create. The beginning is no indicator of what's next, let alone a foreshadowing of the final scene. So often I want to know how things are going to go and forget to notice and value and experience each step along the way.

An engrossing conversation can lead to a mind silencing kiss. Or not. A confession of mutual attraction may lead on to further engrossing conversations. Or not. And all of it may lead to an evocative masterpiece, or a scrapped canvas on a junk heap, or - worst of all - a trite imitation of someone else's authentic expression.

I think I know what I'm painting. I have a plan. I think I understand the process of building up layers of pigment mixed with resin to create a finished product. And it may all end up in the dumpster. Only time will tell.

TI♥T: Oh Shoot!

I totally had a Things I Love Thursday post idea all picked out at some point today, and now it's technically Friday, and I really need to go to bed, and I forgot to post.

Life is so good right now it's almost hard to focus on one thing.

And then something came up tonight and I had a couple of conversations that weren't what I expected, and now all I can see is the brown smudge of doubt and cynicism on my otherwise bright shiny creation.

So. As you already know I love my new job. I love my new house. I love my new life.

And, right now I'm frustrated. Probably a good idea to just go to bed and start all over again.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The becoming necessary to the being

Today was my first day at my much anticipated, much celebrated, and very appreciated new day job. And my first activity on this first day (right after oohing and aahing over my lovely office and figuring out which key opens which door) was to attend the monthly management team meeting.

You know you're in special place when the first person who greets you in the morning says "oh, we're all so glad you're here." And when the first question your new boss asks is "how are you feeling - are you nervous at all?" But when your management team meeting starts with a devotional that has you craughing, well, it really makes you wonder.

SC2 shared with us why struggle matters. It's a physical and spiritual imperative. It's how we grow, how we gain strength. How we learn. As Sheila Walsh (the author of the devotional) says,
[I was ] told by an ornithologist that unless a baby bird struggles to get out of the shell it will not have the strength to survive. The very act of struggling to make it to the outside gives it what it will need to learn to fly. I remember thinking, “How brilliant of God to render the “becoming” necessary to the “being.”
What especially stood out for me was the image of the baby bird. Having been wrapped up for the last few months in nudging my fledglings from the nest, and creating my empty nest, the image of the baby bird struggling to break free was especially poignant for me. How often we want to break them out of the egg shell, or to keep them safe inside it. And either option causes only death. Only in allowing the fledgling to find it's own way can it also learn to fly on its own.

It was a good day. And a good reminder. And I'm so excited to go back tomorrow.

Friday, July 2, 2010

TI♥T: Canada Day Edition (With Glowing Heart)

What else could a good Canadian girl like myself write about on a July 1 Thursday than how proud I am to be Canadian, how much I love Canada, and what fun Canada Day is? Yes, we are a flawed nation. We have imperfections and struggles and crises of identity. But there is nowhere else on earth I'd like to call home.

I am capable of writing an in-depth analysis of Canadian culture. Of debunnking stereotypes (I, for one, like neither beer nor hockey). But instead tonight, having literally just stepped in the door from a fantastic evening with my Funk Soul Brother celebrating in our provincial capital, I'm going to keep is short and sweet. Here then, in no particular order, are the things I truly love about Canada on Canada Day:
  • a heaving sea of humanity in red t-shirts, maple-leaf capes, home-made red and white costumes, and everyone saying 'sorry' when they bump into you (or even when you bump into them)
  • Canadian flags tied to waving hockey sticks
  • Fireworks set to music 
  • 30 + abreast cops on foot and motorcycle clearing the street, one of whom turned to tell my FSB and I "it's not a good idea to walk behind us in case people throw bottles and such"
  • a distinct lack of bottle throwing
  • hearing K'Naan's - the Somalian by birth & Canadian by choice rapper - World Cup socer anthem "Wavin' Flag" blasting from TVs, radios, and sound systems throughout the downtown core
  • spontaneous choruses of O Canada in the pub and on the street
  • knowing that in a crowd of 50,000 people I am completely safe - connected even - with my co-Canadians
  • hearing an American tourist say "these Canadians get more excited about Canada Day than we do even for the 4th of July"
So wave your flag and wave your flag and wave your flag - we're getting better and better at this patriotism thing.

When I get older, I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom
Just like a Waving Flag.
So wave your flag, and wave your flag, and wave your flag.

Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
but Violent prone, poor people zone,
But it's my home, all I have known,
Where I got grown, streets we would roam.

But out of the darkness, I came the farthest,
Among the hardest survival.
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak,
Except no defeat, surrender retreat,
So we struggling, fighting to eat and
We wondering when we'll be free,
So we patiently wait, for that fateful day,
It's not far away, so for now we say
When I get older, I will be stronger

I'll make it better, Struggles all over,
When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom, just like a waving flag
And wave your flag, and wave your flag, and wave your flag.
So many wars, settling scores,
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor,
I heard them say, love is the way,

Love is the answer, that's what they say,
But look how they treat us, Make us believers,
We fight their battles, then they deceive us,
Try to control us, they couldn't hold us,
Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers.
But we struggling, fighting to eat,
And we wondering, when we'll be free
So we patiently wait, for that faithful day,
It's not far away, but for now we say,
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