Friday, February 27, 2009

Freedom to Read

Most of us probably take such a notion for granted. It's a given, like the freedom to watch whatever tv show you might click to with the remote. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

I was part of an event that's become an annual tradition in Mission, B.C. -- a presentation of readings from books that have been 'challenged' (my, aren't we polite?).

Included on this year's roster was everything from a picture book called The Waiting Dog and Beatrix Potter's Tale of Peter Rabbit to the poetry of Joseph Brodsky and the prose of Mark Twain (Huck Finn).

This year's event featured a number of junior readers. The photo is of Allie, who's participated in this reading for three years now. Ever the professional, here she is doing one last mental read-through before she performs.

Long live the book, says I, and the freedom to read what we choose.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No more bullying

Today is Pink Shirt Day -- a day to boldly wear pink and stand up to bullying. I'm so tickled pink about this, I'm even wearing pink socks! Look at those feet, such exemplary friends. Even when moving backwards, they're always co-operative, never bullying.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The week's biggest news

I can't help but think this might have been a week for believing in astrology. It sure felt as though there were planets (or some other controlling force) at odds with each other.

Many would contend the biggest story here in Canada was the visit from Barack Obama. Yes, that was big, but it also served as a what I call a 'smokescreen story' for another, bigger story -- a story that isn't finished and that won't be going away.

The same day President Obama visited Ottawa, the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) finally came out with a report they seem to have been stalling about -- that security for the 2010 games is going to cost $900 million dollars. Hmm, where the number is that high, why don't they just round it off and call it a billion? Here in the West, the story made the front page. I'm not sure that was the case anyplace else. Considering that all Canadians will in some way or other be paying these costs, it seems sneaky for this story to have come out on a day when hoopla stole all the headlines.

In sharp contrast to the news from Vancouver, Tuesday's news saw a report from Sochi in Russia that their Winter Olympics in 2014 will come in at 15% lower than they'd predicted. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Another story connected to this week is one that happened 50 years ago, the cancellation of the Avro Arrow, a move that left thousands of workers without jobs and questions that still remain today. I wonder whether Obama even knows about that one. In fact, I wonder whether Steve Himself does.

But on we go, interesting times... indeed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dreaming of Queensland

Well, it looks as though I've taken another step towards my dreams of Queensland. My application for the Best Job in the World has been accepted.

From here on in, people have to go the site and cast their vote by 'rating' the video on the five-star bar. It looks as though you can only vote once, so I hope you'll make that first attempt count. They'll announce the top ten plus a 'wild card' on March 2nd.

I'm not holding my breath on this, especially because I've seen a lot of the other applications. Nearly everyone has used editing and special effects galore. My all-in-one-minute take was based on the thought: what would I be able to do at Hamilton Island in an ongoing blog? I knew I wouldn't be able to pull off a lot of fancy stuff, so figured go for the plain-and-simple and play on my strengths (writing and blogging).

Okay, if you want to see it (and hopefully, cast a vote for me) here's the link that should take you directly to my little vid.

And hey, if you feel like sharing this with others, I'd appreciate all the help I can get!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A photo I forgot to take

So instead, you'll have to imagine it.

Five middle-aged people, a mix of men and women, gathered at a table in a coffee shop. Two of them are seated, the other three huddle around. All of them focus on an assortment of prescription-medicine containers containing pills. By turns, unprescribed, each of them takes a bottle, opens it, holds the container near their nose and inhales deeply, sniffing it.

And no, they're not crazy. They're trying to learn what vitamins their bodies might be lacking.

If that sounds like a strange way to find out what vitamins they need, well, if you'd asked me yesterday, I might have agreed. Only now that I've heard a presentation (and done the smell test myself), I can't really dispute it.

The presentation, by poet Diane Dawber, was part of a reading she did for our local Arts Council's literary series. She also read poems from her first book, Cankerville (Borealis) and from the forthcoming Driving, Braking and Getting Out to Walk: Landscape as the Poet's Future (Hidden Brook Press, 2009).

It's hard to believe that this vibrantly energetic woman was pretty well bedridden for close to a decade. But that vibrancy also makes it very hard not to carefully consider some of the methods she's used to recover -- not only from FM, but from a number of food allergies and chemical sensitivities. Anyway, I hope you 'got the picture'. Next time, I'll try to do better about not missing such a great shot.

Here's a snap of Diane, who's a bit of a blur. It's difficult to catch her still long enough to get a flashless pic. She's just starting her reading at the always-welcoming Pelican Rouge Coffee House.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I missed my blogiversary! Out on the big limb first came to life on February 16, 2006 with a funny little post called Tomorrow is finally here. There've been quite a few entries since then, and I send big thanks to all of my followers (even those who aren't signed on as such) and especially to those who leave comments. Here's hoping that the 'big limb' remains strong enough to hold me and my sometimes-crazy opinions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

And one more valentine

Tonight was my community pool's annual water-running marathon. If you've never done water-running, you can click here for a set of simple instructions. Those directions specify that you need a flotation device. I guess I'm weird, because I never wear one, even though the water-running I do is in water that's 12 feet deep. I'm naturally buoyant, so a belt just feels like an encumbrance.
Anyway, we did a two-hour run tonight, with three staff from the pool (Theo, Alexandra and Auriel) taking turns in leading us onward.I'll admit that halfway through, I jumped out for the teensiest minute -- just so I could take a picture of a few of the people who participated in this fundraising event for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
I'm happy to say that I raised $495. Of course, I couldn't have done that without support from the many people who sponsored me with pledges. Big 'heartfelt' thanks to Rosemary, George, Lisa, Janny, Ruth, Barbara, Jeremy, Brenna, Gord, Lew, and Mary!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Valentine's Day Treat

When I went to the library this afternoon, I wandered into the kids' section. Lucky thing, as hidden over on that side of the room was a display cabinet full of the most perfect bits of needlework.
Looking more closely, I saw that these were all done by a woman I used to work with. What a treat, Hiltrud, to run into these beautiful examples of your art. Even though it wasn't intentional, these felt like a very special Valentine's gift. And way less fattening than chocolate. Thank you!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


This just in from The Vancouver Sun:
WHISTLER - If every Olympic torch is supposed to say something about the country in which its Games are being held, then the torch for the Vancouver 2010
Games says cold, bright, expansive and snowy.

Shouldn't that third-last word be 'expensive'?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Letter from my mother

Well, not exactly. It's more like a fragment of something written by my mother, Carole -- a page I found after her death, when we were sorting things in boxes. Her words gave me a concrete tag to write a eulogy around. This is what she wrote:
“Today is February 8th and still another new snow has fallen – barely covering the icy packed-down dirty snows of several weeks. And this new snow, however thin, has worked its usual little miracle and sort of covered things over, wiping the slate clean – giving us once more a new beginning, a new day, still another new chance to make it all a little better. So that’s the kind of day it is today and I am hopeful. Not with that wild impossible kind of hope I used to have, but hopeful all the same. My mind goes back to a day in late March in 1933.”

It's too bad that the page ended there -- and that there wasn't another one to follow it. I wonder what that March day in 1933 might have been like. The Depression would have been in full swing, and my mother would have been six. For a day to lodge so long in her mind, it must have been a pretty special memory.

Especially when one considers what her life must have been like back then. It was a time of economic hardships most of us have probably only learned about from textbooks. But Carole and her brother and sisters lived those hardships day by day.

Yet those childhood hardships shaped her, contributing to the person she became. And I believe they taught her to always appreciate whatever blessings happened her way. And to treasure whatever wonderful memorable events might occur, including whatever it was that was so special about that day in March of 1933.

At the end of the eulogy, I challenged those present to honour my mother's memory by heeding the words she'd written. I asked them to go out each day, seeking little miracles, making fresh starts, pursuing new chances -- and most of all by doing their best, as she wrote, to ‘make it all a little better.’ And that remains my challenge to anyone who might read this. Because that's the kind of day today is -- one where I too feel a sense of hope -- just the way my mother did on that other 8th of February when she jotted down her impressions of the day.

The photo, probably from around the time of that special day in March, is of my mother visiting her dad at the hospital where he was destined to spend a number of years.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Fun with poems

One of the highlights of my week was a workshop I presented to students in grades four and five. They were full of great questions and were more than willing to try the several odd assignments I gave them. Here's one student working on "I'm silly," a poem about the mood she was feeling,
I especially like her line, "Not like jumping on a chair with a whoopee cushion on it."
Whee! If only we could all be so free in expressing ourselves!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I reckon we've made it

When I drove past this field and saw the farmer out there on his tractor, turning over all that rich, black soil, I just knew it -- once again, we've made it through the winter. It's spring!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Superb Owl

Once again, today is the magical day that comes but once a year -- the day Superb Owl rises into the air, granting the wishes of boys and girls and women and men across the world. Sound familiar?

The wikipedia entry for The Great Pumpkin sees "...Linus's belief in the Great Pumpkin as symbolic of the struggles faced by anyone with beliefs or practices that are not shared by the majority." Since the keeper of this blog often falls into the same minority category as Linus, it seems appropriate for me to be a follower of Superb Owl.

But because I also truly love the music from the Charlie Brown series, I'm suggesting you click on this link to a video of Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin. If you're very good, and if you don't blink when you're at the 2:15 mark, you'll get a quick glimpse of Superb Owl, rising into the air, on his rounds to grant our wishes. Wish well!