Thursday, January 31, 2013

Simple Suggestion #149... Grow your own sandwich sprouts

I have to say a huge thank you to Michael K. at Earth's General Store for inspiring this suggestion. Back on Grey Cup Sunday in November, he hosted an evening called "Sprouting 101," and I went and learned all about how to grow sprouts. Shael and Pramila, two interesting presenters, gave us a ton of information. A few days later, I went to EGS and picked up supplies, and I've been enjoying my own sprouts ever since. Might have to increase my production, because my girls have decided they like them, too.

Sprouting can increase the food value of some seeds by up to 20% -- and the little tiny plants that result are full of vitamins. The whole process for sandwich sprouts is super easy -- all you need is a sieve-bottomed plastic box, a little bit of seed (EGS has all sorts of wonderful sprout mixes sold by weight -- I only use a teaspoon's worth at a time) and some water. Here's the whole process from start to delicious finish:

January 22nd -- Starting the seeds. 
I set the sprouting box into water and sprinkled sprouting mix 
until the bottom of the box was nicely covered...

kept them covered, and rinsed them that evening.

January 23rd -- they've soaked up the moisture, 
and are getting ready to sprout!

January 24th -- 
It's important to rinse them morning and evening 
so that they don't rot or get moldy. Can't see it in the picture above,
but there are some little tiny roots beginning to appear.

January 25 -- some people like to eat them now,
but I prefer to wait until they're green. 
January 26th -- they look the same, except for tiny yellow leaves starting to show.
 Time to cover them lightly with a piece of clear plastic 
so their leaves can green up.

January 28th -- Isn't life amazing? I used
my sink sprayer to rinse them, morning and evening, 
and the sprouts kept growing under their little plastic sheet.

January 29th --


There are lots of other kinds of sprouts that can be grown. Shael and Pramila explained how to grow mung bean sprouts (the pale, crunchy kind you use in stir fries) and all sorts of things I'd never heard of. I'd like to try to grow mung bean sprouts in icecream pails someday, but sandwich mix is a good place for me to start. They're so easy, and with temps having reached -40 C this week, I'm just thrilled to be growing a tiny bit of goodness in my kitchen. Spring will come, but in the meantime, these fresh, green, tasty, wholesome, high vitamin reminders of spring will be great for lunch! Try some for yourself!

And a big thank you to Michael, Shael and Pramila!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A nickel for your thoughts?

My youngest daughter's godfather once stumped my girls by taking a penny, nickle and dime from his pocket, and posing the following riddle:

Johnny's parents had three children: one was named Penny (he pushed forth the penny), one was named Nicky (he pushed forth the nickle), and what was the last one's name (as he pushed forth the dime)?

Ever since, Julia's Godfather has been known as Dimey. But as of next week, the penny will be reclaimed by the Canadian Mint, and it seems Dimey's joke won't be nearly as effective.

Truth be told, I'm a bit sorry to see our cheerful little bits of copper coinage disappear. They're no longer worth as much as it costs to make them, and with the price of copper where it is, I guess I can see why the Canadian Mint can't be bothered any more. But a girlfriend of mine made me into a penny fan when I met her twenty years ago. She had the knack for finding them everywhere she went, and collected a fair bit of money in the process.

What will we do without our lucky pennies? I know, our change purses won't get so heavy, but we'll also lose our Rummoli tokens. I'm tempted to hang onto the few pennies we have left just so we can still play that crazy card game. Not that we play it very often.

I'm also keeping a penny for my first aid kit. When Julia was perhaps five, she came screaming into the house, because she had been stung. Uncertain what to do, I called my mom, who reminded me of an email that had been making the rounds, saying, "Put a copper penny on a bee sting." So I did, and within minutes, the welt was gone and Julia was back to her happy little self. Actually, I think I'll keep more than one penny, just because.

Anyway, I couldn't bear to see the penny's demise without eulogizing it a bit. So, with apologies to John Keats and his Ode to a Grecian Urn, I present...

Ode to a Canadian Cent

O penny small! Fair copper coin! with face

   Of metal queen and maple leaves so bright,
With 'Lis'beth Windsor and a latin phrase;
   You, cheerful change, will soon be lost from sight
For all eternity: and good fortune!
   When underfoot we shall no longer find
      You lost there by a previous passerby.
   Sidewalk, no copper coin of any kind?
"Pennies are luck, luck pennies" -- a sad tune.
     Because our country's mint made me say goodbye.

Will you miss the penny, and all its attendant phrases, like "when the penny drops," "a penny saved is a penny earned," "penny wise, pound foolish," and songs like "Pennies from Heaven"?

A nickle for your thoughts...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bowling for Brazil

January has almost flown, and I can hardly believe that it's already that time of year when our L'Arche Edmonton community gathers to raise funds for our partners in solidarity. Our Annual Bowl-a-thon is this Saturday, and my three girls and I are the K-team. We'll collect pledges and bowl two games with our L'Arche friends, with all monies going to L'Arche communities in South America and the Caribbean. So if you want to sponsor wonderful work being done by, with and for our developmentally disabled brothers and sisters in Brazil, Haiti and other communities in the South, we'll happily take your money! And even if you have no money to spare, we know we're in for a good time. Being a lousy bowler with an uncontrollable hook, I must say that I LOVE bowling with friends who don't worry about who wins or loses, and who cheer enthusiastically with every pin that falls! If you're in the neighbourhood of the Bonnie Doon Bowling Lanes on Saturday, February 2nd at 1:30 p.m., come join the fun!

P.S. I love this shot of Deena in her bowling shoes. I just wish you could see the smile on her face.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My creed

Who is your God?

is not only male. Nor is she only female. He and she is beyond pronouns or titles like Mother or Father, but since I have positive relationships with both of my parents, I can accept that God is a prodigal father; a nurturing mother; a hen sheltering her chicks; a gentle shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine and looks for the one who is lost; a Tender-God.

The God in whom I believe is also known as Jesus, our brother, who constantly underlines peace, forgiveness, compassion, and love, and who experienced human life and its joys and struggles not to become a king over us, but to be in solidarity with us.

The God in whom I believe is a Holy and Creative Spirit, present always, but especially in beauty, joy, consolation, inspiration, unity and community.

The God in whom I believe is always with me as my best friend, and has an amazing sense of humour!

The God in whom I believe is not greater or stronger or higher or better in any way than the God of Aboriginal Peoples, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, or any other faith or denomination. She and he is one and the same God, a God who excludes no one.

The God in whom I believe is a personal God. Not someone way out there, so almighty, fearsome and far beyond me that I have to constantly grovel and bow in his or her presence, but someone who would prefer to sit with me, hold my hand, and look me in the eye as we speak. And that God wants to be just as intimate with everybody else, too.

The God in whom I believe is present in everyone around me; in everyone on the planet.

The God in whom I believe knows his and her greatness, and doesn't need to be reminded of it in every sentence I speak. My God appreciates simplicity over verbosity, and knows that the human heart carries enough clutter without having to stutter through pompous and lengthy liturgical prayers that use archaic words like consubstantial. Deeper etymological and theological meanings of language are better understood by God than by us, and God probably doesn't mind if the words we use to address her and him aren't perfect, church-sanctioned descriptions of the indescribable. I suspect that God doesn't listen for the words as much as for the love with which they are spoken.

The God in whom I believe understands that the word 'men' is NOT an inclusive word, and that women are not men any more than men are women. He and she also knows only too well all the damage that has been done by male-dominated social structures throughout the millennia, and grieves those injustices. Even so, she and he continues to call both men and women to serve each other through the priesthood, or as lay people who are also priests, prophets and holy royalty in our own right. God rejoices when we are willing and able to live our vocations, whether female or male, single or married, lay or religious.

The God in whom I believe is a forgiving God. Forgiving before I even ask for forgiveness, and certainly not expecting me to self-flagellate because I have sinned through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. I suspect God appreciates it when we admit our mistakes, say we're sorry, and make things right, but he and she also doesn't want us to be immobilized by our failures. One apology is enough, and this business of breast beating? So middle ages. Our forgiving God knows that the hardest thing is to forgive ourselves, and doesn't pile on more guilt.

The God in whom I believe is a lover more than a judge. As a lover, she and he woos us with sunsets, gifts us with life in an incredible world, and creates human love to show us the overarching love behind all that is. He and she isn't so hung up on the things human beings hang ourselves up on. She and he isn't interested in any dogma or doctrine other than "Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as you love yourself." God simply wants us to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with everything that lives -- no matter the species, size, shape, color, gender, sexual preference or stance taken on any topic we care to name.

The God in whom I believe doesn't force anything, but allows us to choose -- life or death, light or darkness, peace or violence, love or fear -- hoping that we will choose what's best for the sake of everything he and she created.

The God in whom I believe is more interested in action than words; more concerned about service than worship; more anxious that we seek the lost than that we pray perfectly-phrased prayers; more involved in our redemption than our rules.

But my church seems to be assuming the reverse.

My consolation? I know I'm not alone in knowing the God I in whom I believe, because I have learned of God from others who have shown her and him to me. And our God, who laughs and cries with us in our delight and our struggles, understands us and everything else better than we ever will.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Simple Suggestion #148... Go natural

This won't be a popular moodling, but I'm not out for popularity. After seeing a hair colour commercial last night that almost made me gag, I'm done with tippy-toeing around this topic. You're getting my real feelings here today. And if you colour your hair, you might not want to know my real feelings, so you've been warned. I guess I've lived long enough that I can be an opinionated woman on certain subjects...

Before I get any further, I'll be honest about my past hypocrisies. I have coloured my hair -- twice. My first grey hairs appeared when I was the tender age of 23. I pulled the two of them out. But then I thought, why be so vain? Greys are a sign of character. I'd always admired salt-and-pepper girls my age. Unfortunately, the that didn't last. Not long after my third child was born, my sisters and I had a girls' party with a box from Clairol. My hair was very salt-and-pepper at that point, so we picked up a rich brown that wouldn't make the change seem too obvious, and, voila, a "new me." (Not really, though that's one line with which marketers make their money.)

Every time I washed my hair during the weeks following, I watched chemical colour run down the drain. Seeing the sullied water bothered me, but as I wasn't too concerned about our environment at that point in my life, I ignored my unease. Years later, when my sister-in-law and I turned forty within two weeks of each other, we went to a snazzy salon in Le Marchand Mansion and spent an outrageous amount of money on colour -- with highlights -- and a cappuccino on the side. My hair never felt so soft and manageable or looked so fantastic, and the salon's coffee service was good, too.

So why do I have issues now with the hair colour industry? Well, for the same reason that I have issues with anything that complicates life, consumer culture in particular. It has a way of manipulating us (and sometimes, those around us) so that we think we need to change just for the sake of change (and for the sake of consumerism's bottom line, but it never mentions that). If I had the time, I could dismantle just about every beauty boon, cosmetic craze, or fashion fad there is, but today I'm picking on hair dye. When a larger portion of the world's women every day are subjecting themselves to unpronounceable chemicals (ever try to read the side of a hair colour box?) in order to spice up their lives by spiffing up their locks, is that really a good thing?

I wish you could meet my dear neighbour, back alley Mary, who died of lung cancer (she was a smoker) in the summer of 2009. She was a funny and delightful woman that I just loved to talk with whenever I saw her. We chatted about everything and anything over our respective fences, shared gardening tips, and she taught me to make pickles, perogies and pie crusts. She was like an extra grandma to my youngest daughter, and overpaid my kids for shovelling her sidewalks. We all loved her and the pies and pizzelli she brought to our back door. You'd be hard pressed to find a better neighbour or friend.

Several times during our over-the-fence chats, Mary commented on my salt-and-pepper hair and how lovely the grey looked. I thanked her, and commented that if she would go natural she'd be even lovelier than she already was. She pulled at her perm- and dye-damaged hair, saying, "Oh, I could never do that. My hair is already white -- see the roots? I'd look so old." And I'd look at her outrageous strawberry blonde or brassy brown with those white roots showing through and think, "Who has done this to you? Who has made you think that white hair isn't beautiful on a 74-year-old?"

We know darn well who has done it. Who can't name several hair dye brands without even trying (men will know Grecian Formula if they watch hockey, right)? We've all seen the commercials featuring stunningly beautiful women with incredibly shiny coloured tresses flowing around them like cascades of riches. The one I finally saw last night (my girls tell me it's been around for a while) featured an adorable Aussie or Kiwi actor saying "Kate's more beautiful now than the day I married her." I have yet to meet a real human being married for 15 years with two kids who has hair that looks like Kate's, and I have yet to see a hair product advertisement with a model who has unevenly greying hair like mine. Of course, marketers won't make much of a living if they encourage people like me to love the hair we have. Their reason for existence is to create artificial needs, so they tell me I should be like Kate perpetually and "wash that grey right out of my hair" until the day I die. Like dear Mary did.

But if you know me by now, you know I'm a rebel who can't stand that kind of conformist blather. The last time I wrote on this topic was in October 2010. Today I went looking for fresh stats, and couldn't find any, which makes me wonder if the hair colour industry doesn't want us to realize how much of our lives' hard work goes toward paying for colour-in-a-box. According to an undated article I found in 2010 on the Marie Claire magazine website, in 2008, 1.6 billion dollars were spent on home hair colour in the US, $490 million in Mexico, $180 million in India, and $400 million in the UK (Canada doesn't register on a New York magazine's radar). Increases in sales of in-home hair colorants from between 29% in the Middle East to almost 180% in the Eastern Bloc countries were reported since 2002. I'd love to have a penny for every dollar we spend now.

Of course, not a word in the article about the chemicals in hair colour, lovely sounding things like 6-Methoxy-2,3-Pyridinediamine, 2,3-Naphthalenediol, N-Cyclopentyl-m-Aminophenol, and Acid Red. Try repeating those 5 times in under a minute. If unpronounceable chemicals with numbers attached don't scare us, just the smell of them combined should. In 2010, the David Suzuki Foundation released a report on some of the toxic substances in our personal care products, and hair dyes were the second thing singled out because some colourant chemicals have the potential to cause cancer, or contain heavy metals that are toxic to the brain.

But let's put concerns about chemicals messing up our bodies aside because nobody believes in them anyway... let's guesstimate... let's just pretend that out of 34.5 million Canadians, a fifth of us (or 6.9 million -- I'll bet that's a modest guess because a lot of guys are into this racket, too) buy six fourteen dollar packages of home hair colour per year (gotta keep up with those roots, right?) to the tune of about $85 dollars a year. That would mean that Canadians spend about $586 million on nearly 42 million do-it-yourself dye jobs per annum. And if we use a modest twenty litres of water to wash the chemicals away each time... that's 840 million litres of dye-polluted water. When you take into account the fact that the average person needs five litres of clean water per day to live in a moderate climate, and you realize that about 780 million of our brothers and sisters in the developing world don't have access to drinkable water (data from ), it doesn't take a genius to see that all the good water we waste colouring our hair could go a long way...

If you want to argue with my stats, guesstimation, or math skills, be my guest. I never was very good at those subject areas. But water issues are becoming critical in a lot of places in our world due to climate change, and the needless use of chemicals contributes to the pollution of land, air, oceans, and us. Do we need to dye our hair? Do we have to buy personal care/beauty products that contain toxins? Must we follow fashion trends? Or is there any way, any way at all, that we can live more simply?

Going natural is one way. I have a deep respect for those women in my life who have never felt the need to colour their hair, but who accept themselves as they are and take aging as it comes, with grace and humility. They're the ones who inspired me to post the video below a few years back (excuse the poor sound quality -- I don't actually have a lisp), and since then, several other friends have joined me in living more simply in this regard. If it inspires you, or you want a copy of my poem to share with friends, my email address is under "profile" on the sidebar, and I'm happy to share, especially if it gives others the "permission" they need to truly be themselves.

Naturals of the World, Unite! And share the news with all our "dyeing" sisters and brothers -- free them from the idea that they have to hide those greys or improve their tresses at the expense of their health or our world's diminishing freshwater supply... because today's suggestion to go natural is just another small step we can take to make the world a better place.

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Singing actors vs. acting singers

Today's Sunday moodling comes to you courtesy Les Miserables, the movie. It came out on Christmas Day, and between Boxing Day and the New Year, I saw it twice, which is an unusual thing -- there aren't too many movies I've seen twice in theatre. I'm too much of a cheapskate to do that very often.

But the cinematography and acting in this one deserved a second viewing. It's a beautiful flick, a bit dizzying at times (I would know), and overall, an amazing show. Having seen the musical onstage, I would warn musical fans that this is a completely different sort of experience. The difference between having singers act on stage, and having actors sing under a camera's watchful eye means that there are moments where the music suffers a little in the movie, just as the acting suffers in some musicals.

Even so, I loved both experiences of Les Miserables, and highly recommend the movie. I can't think of a more beautiful story of struggle and redemption that is so well put together. Even thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I'll be honest, though -- there will never be another Jean Valjean like Colm Wilkinson, and Russell Crowe seemed to be concentrating too hard on his words or his notes to pull off a convincing Javert, but Anne Hathaway as Fantine more than made up for everything, in my humble opinion. Of course, better than both the musical and the movie is Victor Hugo's classic story, which I read just before I saw the musical for the first time in 1992. The book, I recommend most of all. It can be tough slugging in the really detailed parts, but it's so worth it!

Hugh Jackman acted the part of Jean Valjean really well, but he just doesn't have the voice (though he's an extremely handsome man!), so for today's Sunday video, here's the way Jean Valjean's prayer, Bring Him Home, should be sung. I love how Jean Valjean talks to God as he would to a friend -- that's real prayer. This version of the song is performed by the aforementioned Colm, who turns out to be my best friend's second cousin's husband's uncle (figure that one out!) and the true master of the part. (He also does a masterful job of playing Bishop Myriel in the movie.) Don't let the silly video image put you off... Enjoy!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Graduation Day

This morning, I got up, dressed and had breakfast, walked 1.7 km to catch the number 8 bus to Kingsway Mall, and walked from there to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital for my Vestibular Rehabilitation graduation.

Those who follow my blog will know that I've been suffering from a sense of dizziness/imbalance for well over a year. I was pretty much a couch potato when it began because any sort of movement made me miserable and nauseous. I saw an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist who sent me for testing at the U of A Hospital, where it was discovered that my inner ear canals had lost sensitivity, causing me to feel off kilter. An MRI revealed that my brain was "normal", and an ultrasound showed that my carotid arteries were working properly, but the odd sensation in my head continued. When I finally saw my internalist, he told me that he doubted it had anything to do with my 30 years with diabetes, and assured me that it wasn't MS. So that was a relief, but it doesn't explain why I'm still not 100%. Maybe it's just middle age.

While I still get to feeling out of whack after particularly busy stretches in my life, my time at the Centre for Motion and Balance and the habituation exercises Hazel, my physical therapist gave me, brought about amazing changes in my ability to cope with the symptoms. When I first saw Hazel back in September, almost all the activities left me feeling wonky, but today, we went through them again, and I was fine. The odd, off-balance sensation in my head when I turn quickly or am doing highly visually stimulating activies (like grocery shopping or unloading the dishwasher) is still there, but I'm rarely nauseated any more, and I can do a lot more than I did a year ago. I walk to work, drive my car, sweep the floor and play active x-box games with my girls (though they always beat their mother). And there's no way I would have walked 4 km to catch a bus and get to the Glenrose on my own steam even 4 months ago. My dad drove me to all my rehab appointments -- until today.

So, I'm celebrating... even though I'm not 100%. Sometimes it's okay to settle for 95%, and a graduation!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Telling an amazing story

More and more, I'm realizing that I really am a writer. I mean, anyone can sit down and write, but a lot of people have a hard time with syntax or grammar or misplaced modifiers. I used to be that way, too, but after over ten years of writing an actual manuscript that I hope will be published and sell many copies (see last Tuesday's moodling), I finally understand how words work, how necessary good spelling is, and the importance of varying sentence structure. Not that I'm perfect, and not that my prose is at all poetic. It is readable, and after having a few people say, "you're a good writer," I'm finally starting to believe it.

So now that I've finished one major writing project, I've gotten myself into a pickle. My boss and the Board Members of L'Arche Edmonton asked if I would consider writing the history of the Edmonton community over the last 40 years. Because I love the community, and I believe in the importance of knowing from where we have come, I didn't even think twice before I said yes! What could be more interesting than getting into the how and why of a community made up of people with and without disabilities who live together, family style, and who offer society a completely different understanding of the value of those who have long been denigrated and misunderstood -- labelled "retarded" and other, even harsher names -- but who have the most to teach us about loving unconditionally? (And am I really a writer, after that ridiculously long sentence??)

Eight years after L'Arche was founded in France, Doris and George Myers bought a duplex in Sherwood Park and welcomed one man with disabilities and four assistants to what eventually came to be known as the Shalom Community, or L'Arche Edmonton. It was that simple.

Within a year, the community numbered 35! You see, it's an amazing story that I have been asked to tell. In reading previous versions of the history written by others, and through interviewing people who have been involved over the last 40 years, I am getting a picture of something very challenging, and extremely beautiful. L'Arche Edmonton has had no shortage of visionaries who have helped the community along, giving their time, energy, and many talents toward creating "home" for people who, in the not-so-distant past, were left in psychiatric wards even though their only issues were intellectual disabilities. If you don't know what I'm referring to, just reread the story of Thomas.

The community has also had its share of struggles. As with any family, personalities sometimes clash, and the fall out can be messy. Different people have different ideas about what needs to be done, and how to do it. There were several times that things almost fell apart entirely, but for different people coming along with fresh perspectives, willing to compromise or try things a little differently. Like any ideal, L'Arche has yet to be fully lived in some respects, but members continue to try to reach the ideal -- a life where people with disabilities are valued and understood to have just as much to offer the world as those who don't. I suspect the challenge and the beauty of living that ideal are similar in every L'Arche community, from El Arca Buenos Aires in Argentina all the way to L'Arche Zimbabwe and every other corner where L'Arche can be found.

In L'Arche communities around the world, there are probably hundreds of thousands of life-changing and mutually life-giving encounters between people with and without disabilities that are nothing short of inspirational. It's my task to capture a few of the local ones. Interviewing past members of the community and sorting out the details is turning out to be a mammoth challenge for someone whose writing abilities were forged in fiction, but it is a challenge I am enjoying nonetheless -- I find myself in a very positive pickle. I only wish that everyone in L'Arche Edmonton could be with me as I talk with people about our history, as I'm seeing that there is no way I'll be able to do justice to all of the amazing events and people from the past 40 years! And I'm only writing the first chapter! The hope is that the history will be ready in time for L'Arche's 50th Anniversary in 2014, but we'll have to see how things go.

Stay tuned, as I suspect a few stories from this positive pickle I've gotten myself into -- or, rather, this labour of love -- will appear here, simply because they're too good not to share!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Simple Suggestion #147... Opt out

Here's something for those folks who don't use their Yellowpages very often any more and don't want to see trees wasted...

The people who publish Yellowpages in Canada are allowing homeowners to opt out of having the big, heavy, yellow, advertisement-full phone books dropped on our doorsteps in March. Suits me fine, as most of the time when I need information, it's just as quick to look online because the ads in the Yellowpages can't be as detailed as a website usually is. So last year's big yellow book is likely my last.

If you find that you're in a similar boat, just click here and you'll find a webpage where you can probably opt out where you are, too, if you want to do that. It's easy, and imagine how many resources will be saved! It's another of those small, positive steps we can take to improve things around us. My thanks to fellow Master Composter/Recycler Craig for bringing this to my attention.

Goodbye, Yellowpages. It's been nice to know you, but times do change, and I'm changing with them...

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Simple Suggestion #111 revisited... Become a Master Composter/Recycler

It's that time again -- time to sing praises of a wonderful City of Edmonton program that turns ordinary, earth-conscious Edmontonians into uber-cool volunteers who know almost everything there is to know about composting and recycling in our city. I'm speaking of the City of Edmonton's Master Composter/Recycler Program. I took the course in 2007, and continue to be inspired and encouraged in my efforts to live with a smaller ecological footprint by a wonderful community of like-minded folks who have also participated. I can't speak highly enough of the program and the people involved in it.

I can also honestly say that the 35 hours I spent at the course itself were some of the best I've spent in class ever. I learned a lot about reducing waste and replenishing soil, met some amazing people, and brought home all sorts of great ideas for my home, yard, and garden -- ideas that have improved my life, and the health of our planet. I feel confident in my composting efforts, my garden has thrived, and I've had a lot of fun helping others to learn about composting and recycling in my own back yard and as a volunteer at different city events. Not only that, but our Master Composter/Recycler community shares a lot of interesting info on Facebook, and has some pretty great socials now and then!

If joining the ranks of a pretty great squad of Master Composter/Recyclers sounds appealing to you, please consider taking Edmonton's New and Improved Master Composter/Recycler course. Tell them Maria K. sent you!

Here's the link to the application page: NOTE: The deadline for applications is February 7, 2013.

And if you don't live in the Edmonton area, there are Master Composter/Recycler programs popping up in other places, too -- like Vancouver, Spokane and Seattle WA, The University of Rhode Island, Hennepin County, Minnesota, Schenectady and Westchester Counties in NY, the University of Idaho, and the list goes on. It's great to see other MCR courses coming online -- makes me feel like there's increasing hope for our planet's good health. Why not join the movement if you can? Or start your own...

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A dream turning into reality

I wish I had written down the date of the dream, but I didn't. And it doesn't really matter, but I would just like to know the date, because over the last ten years, the dream has changed my life.

It was a bright, vivid dream, like sitting in the front row in a theatre where lighting makes the colours pop and the action is right there. It was a musical dream, with many voices singing in harmony, dancers whirling past, and the kind of excitement that draws people to their feet in standing ovations. It was an uplifting dream, with a story to make a heart leap and dive and leap a few times, before a conclusion worthy of cheers and bravos.

And then I woke up. In the dark, with Lee snuggled beside me, and our girls in their room across the hall. It was disorienting to go from such a vibrant dream to a sleeping household in the middle of the night.

I was so thunderstruck that I turned on my night table lamp (eliciting groans of "what are you doing?" from my poor husband) and searched the bedroom for a pen and some paper. Eventually I found an eyeliner and scribbled a few notes on the back of a sales receipt in brown-black, turned off the light again, and tried to go back to sleep to recapture the dream -- which, of course, didn't work.

The next morning, as I made the bed, I found the sales slip on the floor, and couldn't decipher much of what I had written. But the feeling of the dream was strong, and stayed with me for a long time. Months later (or was it years?), my husband left town on a week-long business trip, and after I got my little girls to bed, I began to write the dream for my little writing club of two, working until the wee hours. By then, I had only the memory of a few legible words in brown-black with which to work. The colours, lights, action and music had faded away, and my imagination followed the characters and what they wanted to tell me... all the way to 207,000 words over five-and-a-half years. The story came to a conclusion that was emotionally different than the dream's, but it was still very satisfying. I mailed it to my best friend, the other member of the writing club, and was delighted when she responded that the unexpected climax in the story "rocked" her.

In the five years since, I've had many friends and several strangers read the manuscript and give critical feedback. It takes a village to raise a child, and probably just as many critics to fix a full-length novel. I've written and rewritten different sections of my story. I've sent it to one publisher who rejected it. I've chopped it by 25% with the help of a friend who was trained as an editor (and who helped me understand my issues with passive voice), and because of the kind advice of Marina Endicott, a writer I met at a Writer's Corner at the public library. And now I'm convinced that my story is finally 100% publishable, if I can find someone at the right press to see its value and share it. It's a story of which I'm very proud. It is also a very timely story, as this past weekend, there were two articles in the news about girls trapped into the sex trade.

Yesterday, my calendar quoted John O'Donohue, who said, "May I have the courage today... to postpone my dreams no longer." It was a good omen. I hopped a bus and delivered my manuscript to a local publisher, one that gives new writers a chance. This time, I am ready for whatever comes -- my decision to submit for publication doesn't feel as scary as it did the first time because I know my story is finally as good as I (and a few others) can make it. If the publisher accepts it, that will be wonderful. If not, I'll find another way. The dream has already changed my life, so I'm not looking for fame or fortune. I've already promised all author proceeds to the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE), an agency that helps women caught in human trafficking. All I want now is for others to be able to read my little masterpiece and learn about a cause that has become one of my passions. So wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Starting the New Year with gratitude

Darkness gives way
to a bright winter's day.
The frost on the window
catches the light.
Our home is warm
and safe from harm,
and this coming year
full of promise bright.

And this I know:
a debt I owe
to One so much greater
than I can dream.
You've kept my life
from sorrow and strife
and blessed me with graces
seen and unseen.

So this New Year
I raise a prayer
of thanksgiving
from deep within.
My soul will sing praise
for the rest of my days
that you've made me
your Christ's kin.

Thanks be to you,
All-loving and True,
as you hold us all
close to your heart.
Show us your way,
and guide us each day
in sharing
the love you impart.

Thank you, God, for bringing us to 2013. Help us to make it count.



Whew, that was a lot of writing (and not enough pictures) over the past month. I think I'll take a week's break from moodling. The 12 days of Christmas still stretch until January 5th, and I could probably come up with that many more Christmas ideas, but I'll bet you can, too, and if you want to share them in the comment box, I'd love to read them. Have a blessed 2013! I'll be back on January 8th.

Happy New Year!