colourful feathers

Day 20: Multicolour

I love colour, which I’ve photographed already a lot this month. By the time I got to multicolour in the instagram #artsydefined series, I turned to my little helpers for ideas. Anyone who lives with or works with children know that they are very colourful. They have Lego, trains, picture books, “rainbowish” things, primary-coloured clothing.

During the hours I was home that evening, between work and another engagement, I worked with my six-year-old daughter to make a butterfly out of paper plates and things. She had gotten this idea on an extra feature of a DVD. Surprisingly for someone creative, I really don’t enjoy crafts very much.

While we toiled over this elaborate butterfly mobile, I asked my four-year-old son to make me a bookmark. I have been so worn out this month that every night I’ve spent my usual reading time just looking for the page I was on last, then promptly falling asleep. I guess using a bookmark might seem obvious, but I can usually get by without one.

My son slathered the piece of card stock I gave him with glue, and lined up this colourful array of plumage. I love it!

My Joy Luck Club

Joy Luck Club

Friends often ask me how I find the time to do all this…this referring to working full time, commuting, parenting two children, working on paintings, blogging, reading fiction at a rate of two or three books a month, cooking interesting food, remaining happily married.

To answer that, on the eve of my 34th birthday, I have to say that writing these posts is helping me string things together. It allows me to connect the mother, the artist, the woman, the worker bee, the reader, the Jesus-follower, the “someday” writer, and to check in to see if I still have a soul at the end of the day.

A recent lunchroom discussion led me to try to identify what must be left out in all this busyness. I think the number one thing that is neglected (after exercise) is relationship.

Ever since I read the Joy Luck Club a few years ago, I wished again that I had that close-knit group. Even if you haven’t read it, you know who I’m talking about – the friends of Friends, the women of Sex and the City, the pals of Seinfeld.

So as a sort of new year’s birthday resolution, I want to venture toward finding my Joy Luck Club. My tribe. My kindred spirits.

What will this look like? I don’t expect it will involve long formal games of mahjong, or meeting daily in a local cafe – not in this sprawling metropolis. It may look something like a book club, nothing to stringent, gathering every six-to-eight weeks. Taking turns picking the book, and if you haven’t read it yet, come and find out why you should. Or perhaps some of us will want to share writing, or we’ll have an art 101 night. Or games.

I’m looking forward to what this year holds, and look forward to deepening some friendships. Also looking forward to my first art exhibit, and growing other aspects of my life: becoming more thankful, more joyful, and writing more thought-provoking things.

Cozy winter reading recommendations

Old journals, letters, and artefacts from my family farm

Since returning from my summer trip to our family farm with a pack of my great grandmother’s letters and journals, I’ve read two novels that resonated with my connection to the past. In fact, if I were to write a novel inspired by my own ancestors, these two novels were examples of the type of story I might end up with.

This week, I’ve literally been hibernating in Myrna Dey’s “Extensions.” I chose it from this year’s Giller Prize Longlist. The main character, a police officer on the Burnaby-Vancouver border, becomes engrossed in the life of her great grandmother through letters. The letters take the reader back to the late 1800s on Vancouver Island, during the early mining days of the new colony. I’m very interested in this history due to my work at a national historic site in BC. Having grown up in Eastern Canada, I didn’t learn very many details of the history of British Columbia, so it’s especially relevant. Plus, the great grandmother’s story is full of intrigue. I also found the book interesting because having lived in East Vancouver for five years, I knew most of the locations in the novel firsthand.

The other novel I read and enjoyed was “Alone in the Classroom” by Elizabeth Hay. This book was even more introspective and meandering in the second half of the story, but still interesting to me since it was about a Canadian school teacher in the Depression years. I had just finished reading my own great aunt’s letters home during her year at Normal School in London Ontario in 1939-1940.

While these letters from my ancestors leave a lot out a lot of details, it is interesting to imagine what story could be developed between the lines. I really liked the way Myrna Dey dealt with what was going on between the lines of her great grandmother’s letters by bringing those mining town days to life in narrative form.

For book reviews see:

Extensions – review by Christina Decarie

Alone in the Classroom review by Aritha van Herk

What I Am Into This Month – August 2011

Following suit, linked to Megan at SortaCrunchy and Sarah at Emerging Mummy, I will sum up my August.

On My Nightstand:

  • Together, hedged in by teeming life

    While I didn’t actually read Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, or even read it in the past five years, I lived it every day in Ontario. The first night we stayed on the farm, blanketed in humidity, ears ringing with the overwhelming buzz of insects, blocked from my grandparents’ old house by thick and wild overgrowth, I thought of Annie and her knack for describing the awe-inspiring beauty and horror of her rural landscape. Case in point, the sheer number of cicadas my 2-yr-old son and I found on a single tree one day (about 5 and then more later), emerging from their skins:

Cicada emerging from its skin

  • Elizabeth Hay’s Alone in the Classroom – not as engaging as her Late Nights on Air, I still appreciated the Canadian literary qualities of the book. I also enjoyed reading a book that showed me how a writer could link together stories from an ancestor’s life in the early 20th century.
  • Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children – a fascinating book featuring eight topics like praise and self esteem, why kids lie, sleep deprivation, etc. I love this kind of book – lots of interesting research that is already changing my perspective and practices with our kids.
  • The Bible – it’s always on my nightstand but it’s been open more than usual this month.
  • Little Princes – orphans living in terrible conditions in Nepal after being sold by their parents, who were deceived by traffickers…it was a truly moving story. A young man goes down to volunteer and ends up starting a charity to help reconnect the families.
  • Syrie James’ The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen – light summer reading for my vacation – I got right into this story but at the end of the day, knowing it is fictional (but based on some facts) makes it intrinsically disappointing.

Want to Read: The Help, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Book Thief

T.V. Shows
We don’t have cable, so the most TV I watched was on the flight back to BC from our family vacation in Ontario, when I watched 3 consecutive episodes of What not to Wear. It is worth noting that my plane TV screen only worked on one of four flights. And earlier this summer I watched (and surprisingly really enjoyed) the first season of Gilmore Girls.

Movies I’ve Seen: We actually took our two preschoolers to a real movie in the theatre: Winnie the Pooh. I borrow quite a few DVDs from the library such as Monsoon Wedding, the Red Balloon, Exit Through Gift Shop, Roman Holiday, etc. I watched Kandahar last week and it’s really stayed with me. 

In My Ears: I listen to music a lot to help me concentrate at work, and have finished about five months of going through my ipod songs in alphabetical order! Now I often go for shuffle songs, though I don’t like being surprised by all the Raffi and children’s music that ends up interspersed! Enjoying Broken Social Scene, Downhere (old college friends of mine, who have just released a new album), Bjork, Feist, Stereolab – the usual.

Newest Blog Reads and/or Internet Interest

  • Dahlhaus – dear (yet far-flung) friend of ours who’s career as an artist has been advancing in leaps and bounds!
  • My photographer husband, who is starting to embrace the marketing necessity of blogging (many great new posts to come).
  • MelbourneMumma – another mom with lots of inspiring ideas and images.
  • Other people who do similar types of art, such as artandtreasure, serendipity, knit the hell out (love that “vision” sweater thing! I hope I find time to knit this year), phrogmom, and more!

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month:

  • My dear little almost 4-yr-old, so proud to be dressed like mommy (and my 2-yr-old oblivious of the point of the photo).

    The beginning of autumn, my favourite season – the crisp air, the morning mist that crouches over the riverbank where I work, apples from the orchard, curry, stuffed pumpkins, preschool (for my daughter), flannel sheets, fall leaves, purple asters. For me, autumn is like New Year’s Eve for some – I am often struck by a sense of renewal and artistic inspiration.

  • My beautiful daughter’s fourth birthday next week. Watching her grow and learn to print, read, be kind. It is so much fun being a mom.
  • A welcome return of Saturday brunches with friends…look forward to reconnecting with lots of you!
  • A short trip to Victoria later in the month.
  • Lots of fall events at work, which I am planning and designing ads, posters and promotional material for.


Do you ever feel lonely after finishing a book? Either reading or writing one? I always do. Perhaps it’s because I read such long books. I finally read Dickens “The Old Curiosity Shop.” I don’t recommend it – it wasn’t that good – but the character development was good enough that I miss the people. It’s hard to switch gears into a new story.

I have a similar feeling about the drawing class I just finished. Last night we went out to the arts club, and I found myself sitting with a new mom, an artist (the teacher) and a writer. It just occurred to me that it was like sitting in the fork of my own path. I could go any or all of those directions. I got so much consolation just listening to their perspectives on life and society. It was exactly where I needed to be.

A 180 from where I was on Sunday. “Remind me…why do we need people?” I guess contrived socialization sometimes grates the introvert. People often encourage me to involve my art more in our community, so I decided to work on my charcoal drawing at the beach. I almost got hit by 4 frisbees and a softball.