Rainy Sidewalk Fireworks

Morning comes to the sidewalk. The long green grasses stretch their stalks in front of the grey cobblestone wall behind them. They tilt sideways, holding their pose in an elegant still-life ballet—perfectly confident—adorned with nothing but dewdrops.

The wildgrasses primly hold their brown tuft faces still, ignoring the rush of traffic on the wet pavement a few feet away as they perform their morning yoga.

People trudge by, clinging to their red Tim Horton’s coffee cups, their minds swirling with tasks and unaware of the zen moment occurring near their feet.

Amid the viridescent grasses, the dandelion puffs are tiny white fireworks, exploding with enthusiasm for the new day. Drunk on fresh rainwater, a perfectly organic energy source, the little lions laugh at the Starbucks across the road. No need for a cuppa joe here. They greet the world with bright-eyed grins.

The transformation of their blond manes to bursts of white worries them not a wit. They know nothing of paperwork, or headaches, or housework; nothing of gas prices, or housing markets, or wars. 

I want to lie down in the grass with them, the invigorating rain water soaking into my skin. If I shed enough worry, perhaps I’d become light enough to fly away with the dandelion seeds. Perhaps the little spinning helicopters and I could land somewhere softer than the harsh sidewalk under my feet.

Calling All Writers Great and Small!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 19th, the new online writing course of the Habit Community writer’s group begins! We will be writing with James Herriot, beloved British country vet and author of many books, including “All Creatures Great and Small.” We will be reading his stories and learning form his talent to see what techniques we can use in our own storytelling. It’s not too late to join us if you are looking for a warm, supportive community of writers, enjoy lively discussions about writing and engaging weekly writing assignments.

Some of the topics to be covered are:

  • Anecdotal Storytelling
  • Quick Strokes for Minor Characters
  • Narration and Point of View
  • Managing Time and Space
  • Writing Landscape
  • Dialogue and Dialect
  • Description and Imagery
  • Action and Movement
  • Narrative Pacing
  • Moving from Experience to Fiction

You can join either just for this class, or purchase a yearly membership, which includes several more writing classes, monthly lectures, interactive office hours, and a place to share your writing and give and seek constructive feedback from people passionate about their craft. A great bonus is also the video archives of all previous courses, such as Writing with Hobbits, Writing with Jane Austen, Writing with C.S. Lewis, etc. Here’s a few:

I joined the Habit last year when our lovely teacher, Jonathon Rogers, offered the class Writing with Anne of Green Gables. How I could I resist rereading my favourite book and nerding out about all things Anne? The various writing prompts have stretched me as a writer and helped me explore new genres and ways of expressing myself. The feedback in the forums has helped me learn so much, and the support of small subgroups on the Habit has given me the courage to submit my work for publication, with two very happy results I look forward to sharing with you in the future.

As for reading James Herriot again, it’s awfully fun—that dry British humour, eccentric characters and farm stories too crazy to be made up. Come join us tomorrow on zoom! Sign up to get the link, and keep in mind your time zone. On the west coast, class is Tuesday at 1-2:30pm, but if you’re central or Eastern time it will be earlier.

Oh, yeah, and if you’ve got teen homeschoolers, there’s a lively student cohort, too, in the morning, with their own zoom session and online platform to share their work. Don’t worry if you miss the first class, it will be recorded!

Hope to see you there virtually! Here’s a little video by Jonathon Rogers about the course:

Writing about People and their Animals

“Something Better Coming:” A Beautiful New Children’s Picture Book for Easter

Review of Megan Saben’s Something Better Coming

Earlier today I was talking to a mom friend about books, when she said the following: “There’s tons of kids’ books about Christmas, but so few about Lent and Easter. That’s what I’d like to find more of.”

I knew exactly which book to recommend her: my writing friend Megan Saben’s Something Better Coming. This beautifully illustrated children’s picture book is about the hope that sustains us through the trials of life—and especially death—the hope of the resurrection. Rather than being an escape from this life, the belief that we are all destined for eternal life is an affirmation of the unique preciousness of each human being—each one worthy of love, protection and respect—each one worthy of the miracle of God’s tender love.

Sensitive and refined, the text of Something Better Coming fits well with the subtle illustrations, which show the various resurrection miracles in the Gospels, culminating in the Easter miracle of Christ’s resurrection. I find the illustration style so fitting for the wondrous truths the book is trying to convey—the message is not dumbed down for children or accompanied by ugly, cartoonish illustrations, as I find too many bible story books for kids are. Having beautiful text and illustrations respects the intellect of children, rather than assuming they will only be attracted by gaudy or outlandish drawings.

Our faith reveals a layer of deeper meaning in life, and adds a great dimension of hope, despite all suffering on this earth. For this reason, it makes sense to express this for children as well as adults, in order to equip them with the spiritual tools they will need, possibly sooner than we would like, to face the death of a loved one. Sometimes when we adults are grieving ourselves, it’s hard to have the right words of encouragement to give.

Megan Saben’s book offers the gift of these words of hope, and would be a perfect Easter present for your children, grandchildren, or godchildren, or any adult in your life who loves picture books. You can order just one copy, or team up with friends or your church community to order in bulk. Megan offers various discounts for orders of 5 and 10 copies, and while she is in the US, is willing to ship to Canada. You can find her book here https://somethingbettercoming.com/. I’ll be placing a bulk order myself for anyone nearby who would like one! Let me know in the comments or email me. Thanks!

Megan, whom I met on the wonderful online writing group I’m part of, The Habit Community, is a writer, book reviewer and homeschooling mom of five boys. Learn more about her at https://redeemedreader.com/2022/03/back-porch-book-chat-megan-saben-book-reviewer-author-homeschool-mom/.

An Imaginary Journal Entry from Little Women: Mr. Lawrence Ruminates by his Window

Our latest writing assignment for my online writing class on The Habit Community was to write a page from the journal of a minor character in a famous book. It was such an interesting assignment; people did all sorts of great things from Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, L.M. Montgomery, Suzanne Collins, the tale of Beowolf and more.

My husband had the idea for my piece, told from the perspective of the rich old neighbour next door in Little Women, which is one of my very favourite books. It felt like treading on sacred ground, trying to slip into the writing shoes of Louisa May Alcott…I really hope you enjoy it!

Mr. Lawrence Ruminates by his Window

Every evening for months, I have heard their voices lifting in song—the four neighbour girls singing with their mother around an old piano. At first, I would shut my windows to block out the sound of their happiness, for its lively youthfulness unearthed memories of my own dear granddaughter, now so silent and still.

I tried to make myself believe that I was simply annoyed at their disturbing an old man’s rest, but it was not irritation at all: it was fear of the sorrow their joy was unleashing in my locked heart, until I could contain it no longer.

Eventually, I began opening my window. I now watch for their work-weary mother to come home through the gate, carrying her baskets and bundles. Her daughters greet her with joy, calling “Marmee!” through the open door.

After an hour or so, I bring my pipe and sit by the window pensively, as if pondering some profound problems, while the smoke wafts into the night air, but I am simply waiting to listen to them sing.

Sometimes, their warbling songs are delightful; other times their girlish voices and soft piano tunes are accompanied by my silent tears, the ones I could not shed when my own little grandchild died. How she had loved music!! Her untouched piano haunts me.

However, anger is a lonely refuge. It sustains me no longer, though I try to hide it from my foolish nephew, Lawrence, lest he think I have grown old and soft.

Perhaps I have. I long to do something for them now that their father is away at war. They must feel it deeply, though they carry their burden cheerfully. That lanky one even leaps over the fence at times; I have to restrain my laughter when I see it through the window. Oh, to have her spring in my step!

But what could a lonely old man do to increase their happiness? Their mother seems too proud to accept money; she bears herself so nobly, and I believe their family was wealthy before her husband’s business was ruined.

If only I could be there with them in that cozy little front room, with the light streaming through the window into the dusk, along with their dear voices…then I could hear the soft tunes of their old piano better.

That is it—a new piano! My granddaughter’s favourite instrument shall be silent no longer.

Life, death and love: writing about what matters

Until my October Garden post not long ago, I hadn’t written on my blog for so long. It is not that I stopped writing, but that I stopped sharing. Sorting through my Dad’s belongings this past summer while I cleaned out his apartment, I was at times overwhelmed with memories, longings and regrets. I read over old letters and cards I wrote him as a child. He saved every one in a special folder, “Anna.” Every one since since before I could spell Daddy.

The pain of having lost so much time with him as a child after the divorce, and while living overseas in Holland as a teenager, resurfaced. I didn’t want to talk about it, because I didn’t want to hurt my Mum, but silence is suffocating, at least for me. I need to let things out to let them go.

I did pour that pain into poetry, and as my Dad’s one year of passing approaches on November 9th, I am going to share some with you again.

Since losing a baby 7 years ago in labour, and losing my Dad last year to cancer, I have written a lot of poetry about grief. I wonder if this bothers some people in our “get over it and on with it” society. Am I that weird lady who always writes about death?

At the core of it though, I realize I am ultimately writing about love—because love is what connects us beyond death. Grieving is not being stuck in the past, but honouring the fact that parts of your heart have gone ahead to the future, leaving holes until you are reunited.

All we can hope is that the holes will make our hearts bigger, and let the light shine through from those we love, who are already bathed in heavenly peace. If this is all too cheesy and cliché, that’s just too bad. I am tired of not sharing. So with no more fuss, here is one of my poems from this summer:

Laundry Landay

1 July, 2021

I am sitting in the living room
folding laundry when I find a sudden sign of you

I inhale your familiar scent
lingering beyond the grave in your soft pillow case

I crumple and hide my face in it
faded and butter-soft from oh so many washing’s

I think of your quiet gentleness
your simplicity, poverty, and deep love of peace

I remember your arms around me
my eyes closed, my face resting against your shirt buttons

I breathe in deeply and the pain swells
my heart bursting with the bittersweet scent of you, Dad

October Garden

It is October. The garden sags under the weight of the year. Leaves wither and curl. Lupins droop and drag their seed pods on the ground. The Earth exposes her belly as the covering of plants dies away. Yet Winter has not yet wrapped her fingers around the life of this place. 

Japanese Lanterns hang every few inches, decorating the decay. Along the fence, clusters of flowers bloom. In the lawn, sprinkled with patches of weeds, dandelions hold up their heads to greet the sunshine. Bees still bumble about the garden, resting on the centre of the blossoms before taking off, legs covered in the fairy dust they will use to romance other blooms into existence. 

Just beyond the fence, cars whiz by. When the light turns, they idle in front of the house, their drivers unaware of the seasons turning in the garden, moving round and round, tunnelling through time like earthworms, causing everything near them to grow.

This was a little writing exercise I did for a wonderful creative writing course I’m taking with Jonathan Rogers called Writing with Anne of Green Gables . L.M. Montgomery is so talented at painting a visual scene with her words, but surprisingly, doesn’t rely that heavily on adjectives and adverbs. Rather, she uses really vibrant verbs and specific, concrete nouns. For our class we had to describe what we saw outside, but without using adjectives or adverbs. It’s a fun challenge!

And now, since this is my blog and not homework, here are some pictures of my garden! 🪴

Our New Pregnancy Book: A Gift From Moms To Moms

Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby

Happy Belated Mother’s Day everyone! I hope you all had good days…whether you have one child or ten, you deserve wonderful things! It’s a big, full-time job nurturing life.

My mom blogger buddy Bonnie Way and I have written a book on pregnancy, birthing and early days with a newborn and are offering it free this week until Thursday on Amazon kindle. With 14 kids between us both, we have plenty of experience, and hope our tips, experiences, and birth stories can help support you on your journey to motherhood!

You don’t need a Kindle device to read it—you can get the free Kindle app on your phone, iPad or tablet as well. Here’s the link:

Beginners guide to growing baby: tips to help you through all four trimesters

You may wonder why we say tips for all four trimesters, instead of three, but this is not a typo! During the first three months of a baby’s life, they are still so completely dependent on their mothers to keep them alive, safe and secure. There is nowhere my nine week old son prefers to be, than snuggling on my chest, sleeping to the drum of my heartbeat.

At the same time, a mother’s health and happiness depends a lot on her baby. If he is nursing well, sleeping well, and generally content, so will she be. That means her snacking lots to keep up her energy for nursing, eating well, and napping with the little one, because newborn days are pretty exhausting—but with gentle care—happy baby, happy mama. This is why we call it the fourth trimester…not so much a time to rush into getting “back to normal,” but a time to move slowly while you continue to nurture fragile new life, grow into this new role of being a mom, and find the rhythm and support you need as well.

Huge hugs to all my fellow mamas! I hope you enjoy reading our birth stories!

Double birthday: new baby book and new baby born!

COVID Bucket List:

Have a baby ✅

Write a book ✅

Welcome both to the world on the same day ✅

More than one thing has been gestating during the past year of isolation at my place…and I’m excited to tell you that on the same day my son was born last week, my new book also made its way into the world, thanks to my friend and co-author Bonnie Way. Our Beginners Guide to Growing Baby: Tips to Help You Through All Four Trimesters is now available as an e-book on Amazon, with the paperback version to follow shortly.

Good job, Mom! You’ve been busy!

Here’s our blurb about it:

To give you a better idea of all the things we wanted to share with you, here are the table of contents. We keep thinking of more and more chapters, because there are so many experiences we would like you to learn from faster than we did, but we had to stop somewhere, so here’s what we chose:

As you can see, something that makes our book a little more personal, besides the fact that all our advice is based on our personal experiences, rather than on theories, is that we share all our birth stories with you. Not some overdramatized movie versions of birth, but our honest, actual stories. Keeping’ it real.

Another tidbit I’m rather pleased about is a little surprise tucked in between each section, that is, one of my poems for each trimester, birth and beyond…because the beautiful, feminine mystery of giving birth is something beyond mere prose.

I hope Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby will be a helpful resource for both new and returning mamas and help empower them to make healthy informed decisions about what’s best for them and their babies. Bonnie and I are not medical experts, but after 14 births between us, we are certainly very experienced!

Other important credentials include the fact that as I lay cuddling my four day old infant, I am wearing an International Women’s day outfit worthy of a superhero…or at least some kind of fertility goddess/Star Wars fan gone wrong—Baby Yoda pj pants and a green cabbage bikini—see Fourth Trimester chapters on breastfeeding engorgement to learn why the heck I’m doing that!

Party on, Mom!

If you’d like to be informed when the physical version of our pregnancy and baby book is available to order online, leave me a comment and let me know so I can keep you posted. I’ll also be ordering a box of copies, so if you know me personally and prefer to pick one up from me, let me know to add you to our pre-order list and save on shipping.

Bless all the bellies and babies out there! Time to give my little one a midnight milkshake. 😋

Once upon a pregnancy…an old poem unearthed

Earlier this week, while trying to recover my homeschool room from the storm that was unsupervised making of thanksgiving posters and crafts, and involved strewing crayons and paper all over the floor, I discovered an old poem I had written years ago, in a beat up spiral notebook. I thought it had been lost forever, and regretted it as I could only remember the first metaphor in it, and wanted to know the rest.

The poem was written early my fourth pregnancy, which followed rapidly on the heels of my third, and writing this poem was part of my trying to wrestle through my mixed emotions I had at the time. Funny how blessings come in disguise…despite my misgivings, this little baby girl turned out to be my most gentle, sweet, affectionate and undemanding child. Her siblings have said this themselves, in all honesty. We are all blessed by her quiet kindness. Here she is a toddler…now she is 9!

Without further ado, here is the old poem from my notebook, long before my blogging days began. I’ll transcribe it above the photos, so you don’t have to try to decipher my scrawl.

Winter Tree

I am like a winter tree

laid bare, stripped, naked,

exhausted—

yet secretly bursting with spring,

life swelling through my bare windswept skin.

I feel at once empty and ravenous

as a winter wolf or a nursing bear

emerging after a winter of sleep…

Yet inside me is a miniature universe,

a tiny piece of the puzzle of humanity,

forming rapidly in the dark warmth

of my womb.

I feel like a shipwrecked treasure chest

washed up on shore,

a waterlogged vessel filled with diamonds,

waiting to sparkle for the first time in the sun.

Inside me, a heart the size of a pea

is beating its way toward laughter, sorrow and love.

A matter of months,

and beauty will be born again.

Ballad of the Pirate Bard

I am a pirate and I do not sleep!

I thief night jewels for me to keep.

My Lady with her treasures bold

is generous when the wee hours wax old.

The words upon her golden tongue

are by the midnight spirits sung.

I catch the songs in my jolly heart,

then bursting full I do depart,

‘n sail away to the break of day

to spread her tales far and away!

I am a pirate and I do not sleep,

my treasure is the tears you weep,

my prize is the laughter in your eyes,

for Insomnia’s bedfellow is a pirate wise.

🌴This silly song was brought to you care of
sleep deprivation and my pirate pjs! 🌴