Um, Erm

So, I had no Gmail yesterday. I also issues with Google Calendar, AVG (virus, spy ware and firewall) and I was getting all manner of nasty and displeasing messages from Microsoft.

I tried all of the usual things. Task Manager (Oh, how I wish ctrl-Alt-delete was something I could use in real life). I turfed my Internet cookies, my temporary files, my history. I de-installed and re-installed. I tried to log on to Gmail from the web (this was when I discovered I had no calendar). I tried everything. And it didn't work.

I went to bed, resolving to try and love FireFox. I told myself I would take the Internet tour tomorrow. And go to my web publisher at work and say "Jaaaaaasssssooooonnnnn, my Internet is broken. Whimper, whimper moan. Please fix. I will cook you dinner. I'll wear an apron and high heels. Pllllleeeeeeaaaaasssseeeee?"

I was laying in bed, trying to figure it out. I couldn't get it. Why were my virus definitions telling me they were out of date, when I had updated them? AVG showed me that they updated them on July 30, at 11:17 pm. I had re-installed.

And then.

And then I remembered going into my computer's calendar to figure out what date next Monday was.

So I looked tonight. And, umm, it turns out that it's not August 30, no matter how much my computer thinks it is. And it turns out that if your computer thinks it's a month ahead, well things don't work.

Things like email and um, calendars and virus definitions that your computer downloads daily.

So, what do you want to confess about?

C'mon. Tell us all about it.


I imagine there is a family in this city, who had a daughter born on the 21st of March. I imagine that a midwife caught this baby, and a mother held this baby to her breast. I imagine a couple marvelling over what they had created. I imagine phone calls to family and friends. Dressing a baby. I imagine a mother and a father, born that instant.

You see, in my mind, up until the instant he was born, Gabriel was a little girl. She was a strawberry blonde, with my eyes and my nose, and her father's math smarts and red hair. She was fair and chubby and lovely. She was worth every moment of the acne and the nausea and the heartburn. In my mind, she would be handed to Mr. Spit and I, and the discomfort of the past nine months would pass away. We would be transformed.

My brain cannot conceive of understanding that there was not a family who received all the good fortune that Mr. Spit and I somehow missed. My mind cannot reconcile the joy of that little girl's birth, and the sorrow and joy that comprised Gabriel's birth. In the memory of a darkened, too quiet, broken by sobs, hospital room, with a note on the door, telling everyone to not enter, in a room punctuated by frantic activity, and a too short time to say goodbye, in that memory, I must remember that other family.

I imagine this family, tonight, last Saturday night, as we went to taste of Edmonton. I both want to see this child, and not want to see this child. I do not know what to expect - I have loaned away all of my books on childhood development. I do not want to know what my child should have done at 126 days old. I do not wish to imagine sitting up or smiling or coo'ing.

Gabriel is my son, and I love him. I hold my hand up to the scrapbook page with his tiny feet. I stroke my finger along the page, and I am thankful for the plastic that protects precious photographs from my tears; however much I would like to feel his flesh on mine.

But I imagine this little girl. My mind cannot conceive that someone did not receive her as a gift from the heaven's. But she is not my child. She was not the baby I received. She is out of sync with where I am.

I have felt strangely out of sync this year. I expected to give birth as Mary was letting her son die. Instead, I brought forth my babe as she was bringing forth hers. And as I read the story of the Magi, I am disturbed by the gifts the Magi brought her son. Gold for a king, frankincense for a holy one, and Myrrh - the herb used to anoint the dead. I wonder if she knew the path of sorrows she was walking down. I had no idea.

I am surprised by how little I remember of Easter this year. Lent passed with fasting on my part, but not my previous, intentional fasting on Fridays. Mine was the fasting of someone who could not figure out how to eat. Who was bewildered that as my world had fallen apart, my body would still demand to be fed. It was, frankly, often too overwhelming to eat.

And now I am in what the church calls ordinary time. The vestments are green, and this is ordinary time. But, there has been nothing ordinary about my year. And so, I think of this other family. Who live an ordinary life. Who received the good fortune I missed. And I wonder. Do they know?

E-mail - Update

I have none.

Gmail has vanished. My computer stubbornly refuses to be re-directed. It tries and tries and tries. It fails. I also have no calendar. So, I don't know who is trying to talk to me, and I don't know where I'm supposed to be.

Internet explorer is lost. If you see it wandering around, would you please send it on its way home? It's late, and it's dark out, and it is waaaay past explorer's bed time.

And Mr. Spit, if you are reading this, could you please call me? Your hotel number is on my e-mail. . .

I am now going to have a bath, read a trashy mystery novel and eat my bridge mixture.

Aha! I get it. It was a secret plot by Mr. spit to compel me to accept firefox for my very own. Gmail doesn't work in explorer. It's working beautifully in firefox. I don't like this. . .

Wednesday's are for Grammar

Well everyone:
Your homework was to determine the parts of speech in this sentence.
Mrs. Spit was gardening quietly in her back garden, working quickly to finish the odious task. "Ewww", she screamed. "That beetle is ugly, disgusting and gross".

Let's see how you did:
Mrs. Spit (Proper Noun) was (Verb) gardening (Verb) quietly (Adverb) in (Preposition) her(Pronoun) back (Adjective) garden (Noun), working(Verb) quickly (Adverb) to finish (Infinitive Verb) the (Preposition) odious(Adjective) task(Noun). "Ewww"(Interjection), she (Pronoun)screamed(Verb). "That (Adjective) beetle (Noun) is (Verb) ugly(Adjective), disgusting (Adjective) and (Conjunction) gross (Adjective)".

Who Gets To Post This Week's Coveted Grammar Award:

Dreams Come True
Julia S
Jamie D
Sweet Camden Lass
We will give honourable mention to Geohede, who did not complete the homework, but gave us two very adorable and healthy twins named Saag and Naan. Welcome Earthside, wee ones.

Just a few reminders. A number of you counted "back" from back garden as a preposition. And I can see why, but a preposition tells us the relationship between something, and an adjective modifies the noun. In this case, we are modifying the word garden, by telling the reader that Mrs. Spit is in the back garden. If we said Mrs. Spit is back, in the garden, back would indeed be a preposition, because we are telling someone that there is a back, and Mrs. Spit is in it. This is different than telling the reader that there is a back garden. It's tricky, I'll admit. If you don't understand why you got something wrong, send me an e-mail, and I will send you the worksheet, with the sentence diagrammed.

Today's Lesson:

Excavator asked a great question a few weeks ago. Specifically she asked:
I have a difficult time trying to use language to describe parts of language--I get muddled. What about this sentence?"I wish I wasn't that kind of person...I'd be much more fun if I was more adventurous..." I originally wrote it as "I wish I *were*..." "I'd be much more fun if I *were* more adventurous..."

So class, should Excavator write if I was, or if I were? While it sounds as if the two phrases should be interchangeable, they actually aren't. To explain why, I need to explain subjunctive and indicative moods. (1)
Now a subjunctive mood in writing is a verb that is used in such a way that it designates a hypothesis, a possibility or a suggestion. It does not designate fact. In other words, things may be one way, they may be another. We can't be sure. In cases of subjunctive, we use "were" to denote that we aren't sure of the state of things.

An indicative mood, on the other hand, is much more clear. Things are either black or white, this way or the other. You are either pregnant or not. In cases of indicative, we use "was", to indicate that we are sure of things.

When we look at Excavator's question, we need to determine if she is in fact adventurous, or if she might be adventurous, could be adventurous, but we can't be sure. (2) In other words, do we have a subjunctive or an indicative?

Looking at the sentence closely, we see that Excavator is expressing a definite cause and effect relationship. She is saying that she would be much more fun, if only she was absolutely more adventurous. She's not saying that she might be more adventurous, or she might not be; she's saying that she would like to be, and that's an absolute (3).

So, in answer to Excavator's question, the answer is:
"I wish I wasn't that kind of person...I'd be much more fun if I was more adventurous..."

To give you another example, I could say:
"If I were rich, I could buy all the wool I want." I might be rich, I might not(4), we can't be sure.

Now, your homework this week is two fold. The first is to build your most compelling case about whether this statement is right or wrong:

If Mrs. Spit were pregnant, she would not go whitewater rafting. (5)

The next part is to pick from one of the options on the poll listed on the side. Tell me, would you like to:
  • Learn about apostrophes
  • Learn how to use English grammar to make yourself seem clever
  • Learn about punctuation
  • Submit a question about grammar
  • Please Mrs. Spit, we love you, but we hate the grammar. Please start posting about gnome races or growing kudzu or canning lima beans on Wednesdays.
(1)And I can do this because I went back to my grammar books to learn about them.
(2) And you thought grammar and introspection weren't related!
(3) In the sense that she absolutely wants to be more adventurous. I happen to think that anyone who goes white water rafting with children is very adventurous indeed. But that's just my opinion.
(4) I'm not. Just in case you were wondering.
(5) See above.

Vive Le Livre

Here's how it works:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.

2) Italicize those you intend to read. (Or just put comments next to them)

3) Underline (or mark in a different color) the books you LOVE - mine are in red. I bolded the books I have read, that were, ahem, unremarkable!

4) Reprint this list in your blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them ;-)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee - Stunning, I learned about black humour from this book!

6 The Bible - Yeah I've read all of it, including the really boring bits in Numbers.

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte - I didn't love it, but it was ok. I never got into Heathcliff the way my classmates did.

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman - On my list. Anything that gets the Christian Right that upset is probably worth a read.

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens - Can I just say, I'm not a huge fan of Dickens. The stories are just, so, bleak!

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy - I read it years ago. Can't remember anything about it. I remember something about a dog?

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot - Oh, no. I still have nightmares when I think about the essay I wrote about Silas Marner on the remedial influence of pure, natural human relations. Ugh.

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - I've read it. I just couldn't get into it. Maybe it needs a book group to go with it?

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy -- I have read the whole thing. It got confusing. . .

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh - On my list.

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky - I don't know if I loved it, but it was powerful and profound.

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - A friend recommended it. I'm going to buy it one of these days.

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden - On my list.

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - As a Christian, the theology was VERY suspect (and the church history was just plain wrong.) It was a great read, enjoyable, fast paced, but reading it for content would be like watching James Bond movies to see how MI-5 works.

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery - Oh yes! You lose your Canadian citizenship if you don't read this. And I love all of her books. Every last one.

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding - read it, didn't love it.

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel - eh, it was ok. . .

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons - on my list.

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon - Also on my list.

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Eh, it was ok. I didn't love it. (And for some reason I thought Isabelle Allende wrote it, but moving on)

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas - Love it! Reading it again, as we speak.

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding - Cause Celeb is also really good!

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie - On my list.

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville - I'll give you a hint. It's about a whale.

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker - I don't know if I loved it. . . .

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome - Fabulous! And "We didn't mean to go to sea" is even better. . . .

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray - It's on my bookshelf!

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker - One of the few movies based on a book that I have really liked. Who knew Oprah acted so well!

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry - I don't like him. Any of his stuff. Don't know why, but I don't like him.

87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - I've read some of them.

90 The Faraway Tree Collection

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams - It's about bunnies. Way too many bunnies for me.

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare - I think Hamlet's a whiny jerk. I really hated this play.

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

The Kindest Compliment

The very kindest compliment that can be paid to a knitter is to:
a) Wear the stuff they knit.
b) Be thankful.

Accordingly, Heather, the winner of Whinge-For-All-Thursday has written a very lovely post about my hat.

Verily, it makes this knitter's heart swell with joy. (My heart is possibly almost normal sized now!)

Thanks Heather, you made my day!

And everyone, go tell Heather how fabulous she looks. . . .

Monday Miscellany

  • My funny clothing story from Thursday: I walked around all day Thursday with a giant bleach stain on my bum. And no one told me. I'm not sure if I usually walk around in such a state of clothing disrepair that no one thought this was remarkable, or if no one looks at my bum. I am strangely suspicious and bothered that no one looks at my bum.
  • My funny shoe story, from Friday: I went out to my garden to bring forth lettuce and zucchini (your free with lettuce gift!) goodness for my co-workers. I threw on my garden Crocs. Which are beat up, covered in dirt and stain and paint. I cut the lettuce, fought the good fight with the elephantine sized zucchini plant, and wrestled forth its fruit. Then I went into the house, bundled up the lettuce (carefully disguising the zucchini). I left the house with bags o'produce. I drove to work. Three-quarters of the way there, I thought "My feet feel awfully comfortable". Yep, I wore my ratty, dirty gardening Crocs to the office. All day. I am such a loser. (A loser with comfy feet, mind you. . .)
  • Americans, perhaps you could assist me: You have this election thing going on (and on and on and on, but I digress). You are electing a new president of the United States. So, could someone please tell me why Barack (whom I like) is in Afghanistan, Iraq and Europe? Have many voters there, do you? (Yes, I know it's about foreign policy credentials, but it still amuses me that your guy is campaigning in Germany and Paris.)
  • The local phone company has decided that we must all dial our area code, before we dial the phone number, even for local calls. It is entirely possible that I may lose my mind. If I hear the words "the local number you have dialed must be preceded by its area code" one more time, I may lose it. It's a local number. That's why it doesn't need an area code. I'm not dialing New York, I'm dialing my friend who works 9 blocks away from me. . . .

Saturday's are for Quotes

Except when they are for toasts!

I'm sure some of you were wondering how to toast the Queen. And we are all about useful information here at Mrs. Spit's. Why just look at Wednesdays and Grammar. (Have you done your homework yet?)

The Loyal Toast:
The Host or hostess asks all present to rise.
The Host or hostess raises their glass and says "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mesdames et Messieurs, The Queen, La Reigne"
The guests raise their glass and respond "The Queen or La Reigne"

And we do not clink glasses.

See, there's your useful thing to learn this weekend!

This Just Makes Me Smile

So, this makes me smile. And if you are in a hard TTC place, this might not make you smile. And I'm sorry if it bothers or hurts you. This might just be what Mr. Spit and I call a "deadbaby thing".

It is also entirely possible that Mr. Spit is spending far too much time on LOLCats.

And the temptation to cast on the September Whinge-For-All Scarf is getting immense. Must be strong. Must fight. Must finish any one of the 15 projects currently on the go. (And silence that stupid wool, which is telling me that it will be quick to knit, and I could knock this off quickly, and then I wouldn't have to worry about it come September!) I'm sad and pathetic.


I imagine gears clicking back into place, slowly, having been adjusted to fit a new life. I imagine them dropping into place, the spacing slightly altered, and perhaps the gear teeth looking more worn.

I imagine things adjusting in my life - not moving back to where they were, but at least moving again. There are more gears, and levers: gears named grief, and Gabriel and risk management and sorrow and loss. There are more things to go wrong or be balky, but things are still moving. This machine carries on, keeps functioning. Look, it talks, it walks, it writes. After months where the machinery of my life, it stopped dead, I find the sensation of things moving, to be, not strange, not unwelcome, but different.

I can feel those gears slip into place, reminders of what should have been, and what is. A reminder that I am in a different place, a place where there is a tiny space - a space between what should have been, and what is. A place large enough for my tiny, lifeless son, a place that does not seem large enough to contain my sorrow. Perhaps that is why the machinery stopped working for those long months. Perhaps, without the cog of a living baby, the machinery of my life could not function, until it was re-configured.

I am thinking of this, as I think about going to an event on Saturday, when Mr. Spit comes home. We went last year, it was the scene of the now-famous bacon-wrapped scallop issue. The time when I relished the taste and smell of a bacon-wrapped scallop at lunch, but by the time dinner rolled around, I could not only not eat the scallop, I couldn't watch Mr. Spit eat it either. We walked around, looking at mum's pushing too large strollers, and became convinced that a sling was the way to go. We created another space for Gabriel, another plan of what we would do, and who would be, another part in the life that was supposed to be.

And as I walk into the event, another cog will fall into place, another gear, another pulley or lever will begin to move, and I will walk further into the life that is and further away from the life that should have been.

We will go back this weekend, not living in the life of supposed to be, but living in the life that is. Living, daily, in a place that is not of our choosing. But living. With machinery that still works.

Wednesday's are for Grammar

Last Week's Homework

Well then class, your homework was to identify the verb, the adjective and the noun (including proper nouns). Let's see how you did.

Mrs. Spit went to the amazing knitting store.

Verb: went
Noun: knitting store
Proper Noun: Mrs. Spit
Adjective: amazing.

So, we have an award here at Mrs. Spit's. A special award, created by my very best friend Gen, using all her graphic arts skills, just for those who did their homework.

Those Receiving the Shiny Grammar Apple Whis Week (to put on their blog and receive approbation and honours):
- Sweet Camden Lass(Who gets bonus points for also identifying the subject and predicate)
- Alicia (Who does not suck at this grammar stuff)
- Geohede (Who is exempt from homework this week, if the twins come before next Tuesday)
- Just Me (Who made up her own example, and got that correct!)
- Natalie (Who also got the proper noun!)
- Excavator (Who asks really hard questions)
Receiving Honourable Mention:
JuliaS - Who did not do the homework, but did help excavator write code, in addition to parsing the sentence.
- JamieD - Who gave me a sparkly, shiny award, that I have been remiss in saying thank you for!

This Week's Lesson:

An adverb modifies the verb. It limits or bounds or modifies the verb, telling us more about the action of the sentence. This is different from and adjective, because an adjective modifies the noun, not the verb. Adverbs can also modify the entire clause, as I will show in example 2.

Mrs. Spit speaks quickly - in this sentence the quickly modifies the act of speaking. You get more information about the verb. Mrs. Spit doesn't just speak, she speaks quickly.
Mrs. Spit is an unusually brilliant knitter. Mrs. Spit doesn't just knit, but she's unusually brilliant at it. The unusually doesn't actually modify the is, it modifies the whole last clause of "brilliant knitter".

Did you notice something about the adverbs? Go back and look, we'll wait.
That's right, adverbs most often end in -ly.

Prepositions (not propositions!) make the world go 'round. A preposition tells us the relationship between the object and another clause in the sentence. The preposition tells us if something is higher or lower or up or down or in front of or behind something else. You probably know a lot of them on this list(1):
  • above/below
  • for/against
  • in/out
  • before/after
  • up/down
  • during/after
  • within/without
  • to
  • at
  • except
  • until
  • but

A conjunction is a word that joins other words or groups of words.(2) There are two types of conjunctions: co-ordinating and subordinating. A co-ordinating conjunction joins words of equal rank.

Mrs. Spit is smart and funny. Note that both ideas are equally important in the sentence, and the "and" joins them.

Common Co-Ordinating Conjunctions include: and, but, or, nor and for.

A subordinating conjunction introduces a clause, or part of a sentence that depends on or is less important than the other clause or part of the sentence.

Mrs. Spit was knitting while she was stressed out. Note, the knitting is more important, it happens because of the second thing - the stressed out.

Common Subordinating Conjunctions include: If, whether, while, unless, although, as, before, after and until.

An interjection is an exclamatory word, thrown in a sentence. Adjectives and adverbs often become interjections. Think of words like: yes!, Hey, Ouch!, Why?, Hooray.

Ouch! Yelled Mrs. Spit as she dropped the anvil on her foot. The interjection is Ouch!

This is going to break your heart. I am not talking about the salacious words you never see used here at Mrs. Spit's. An expletive is using the words there or it, and combining them with the infinitive "to be". In a sense, the expletive postpones the event until another time.

There will be another grammar column next week for you to study. There will be is an expletive.

Expletives are generally not the best English. It is usually better to use more direct wording. In the sentence above, I should have said:

Please study next week's grammar column.


Mrs. Spit was gardening quietly in her back garden, working quickly to finish the odious task. "Ewww", she screamed. "That beetle is ugly, disgusting and gross".

Your job is to find:



(1) - Umm, lot's more than this folks, but my hands are getting tired.

(2) Conjunctions are real followers.


I must confess a secret (or not particularly secret, if you look at my bookshelves) liking for Harry Potter. Many of my Christian friends were wholly opposed to the books, and I understand why (although I think they missed the boat). They understand this though: magic is dangerous. It reminds us that parts of the world are secret, hidden, not part of ordinary reality. Harry Potter reminds me to believe in the unexpected. "There are more things in your heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

I have always been fascinated with magic. I'm not talking what we might call the occult, the real practice of magic, or pan-pagan religions. Those are real, and as a Christian, they make me distinctly uncomfortable. No, I'm talking about the magic of fairy tales, the magic of mythology, the magic of magicians - what I would call everyday magic. The ability to make something seem like something else. The ability to take one thing, and turn it into something else. The ability to make the brain disbelieve what it knows it must be seeing.

I have always considered the process of creation to be a form of magic. We take an idea, a seed, a blank canvass, an ovum and sperm, and something comes out of it. We can describe the process through biology, through chemistry, through words, but when we do that, when we bound our thoughts or actions, or the process of a growing thing, we perhaps lose the magic. This is every day magic magic Harry Potter made me aware of. The idea that secret things are happening all around us. Things that we don't control, aren't aware of, and influence in ways that we don't understand.

I remember crossing the river that runs through Edmonton on the subway. It was dark. And I looked around me, and I wondered what a settler from Fort Edmonton in 1795 would have thought of this city of a million that had grown up around where they camped. I'm sure it would have been incomprehensible. Lights on posts. With no candles. Cars and not horses, a train that travelled across the river, not along it. I'm sure they would have not been able to understand it. I'm sure it would have looked like magic. Things we don't understand always seem a bit magical. I think that's why children are so inclined to magical thinking. They don't understand the way the world works, they aren't bounded by physics and chemistry, and they can make up their own explanations. They aren't stuck in everyday, ordinary life.

I have been reading about the hope vs. not hope idea in pregnancy and infertility. Is it better to hope each cycle, hope each pregnancy, or to not? And for the record, I don't know which is best. I'm always in favour of hope. I'm always in favour of believing in the best, and preparing for the worst. But hope, it is a tenuous thing. A belief in something, that exists outside the bounds of what is normal. Hope, by my definition of magic above, is an idea we don't completely understand. We can't understand. I'm not even completely sure that you can control it. But I tend to believe it's always a good idea to step away from the ordinary.

I read a blog about someone choosing hope for this cycle, choosing to believe in the best, (and I can't remember who it was, I'm sorry.) And I thought of the words of Anne of Green Gables. Marilla told her that she set too much store in worldly things. Anne would get all excited, and then she crashed down, and her whole world ended. And Anne, with tears streaming down her face, said yes, but the flight of delicious anticipation made up for the crash.

yes. That's magic. Everyday, ordinary, complete magic.

Monday Miscellany

- So Miss Maggie, as mentioned before, requires dental surgery. I'm going to stick her on a street corner, with a tin cup, and a sign that says "I have an abscess. I need x-ray's, and antibiotics and surgery. Please send money to my vet."

- Mr. Spit is again out of town, which means that my dinning habits will again regress to popcorn and fried eggs. Please, send dinner. I am pathetic. I can live with this.

- A number of you made great suggestions about the "zucchini problem" here at chez spit. Yes, the food bank will take them, and yes, you can prune them. (Clearly an idea I will be pursuing). Generally I don't get this many, this early in the year. Usually they come with the tomato's. So, I can rid myself of them by saying, "here's your tomato's, and if you want tomato's, you have to take your free with tomato's gift, a zucchini."

- And I'm sure some of you are wondering what progress I made on the blogger baby blanket. (Shawl, what shawl? I have no idea what you are talking about. Look, Rob Lowe is naked in the corner!)

See, a picture. Yes, the observant will notice that the wool is, ahem, substantively different. Possibly not even the same wool I started with. I don't wish to talk about it.

- Here's one with more detail of the pattern. The wool is fibranatura from webs, 100% merino, colour is cassandra (Ivory). It's super wash, so it can be washed in the machine, and thrown over the back of a chair to dry. I was going to get depressed about how much I hadn't got done, and then I realized that the blanket is already 6500 stitches. When you put it that way, I've done a lot of work. I'll be done in no time!

- And just to distract you one more time (for those of you who were still stuck on the whole shawl made out of cashmere that's like dental floss . . . ) This is for the September issue of Thursday-Whinge-For-All. The colour is really crummy in the picture but stunning in person. (bad light in the kitchen). It reminds me exactly of a Koi Goldfish. I'm thinking a long skinny scarf?

- Now if you will excuse me, I have chicken blood from dog food to clean up (please, this is another thing you don't want to ask. Sufficed to say, one should always leave raw dog food in the 'fridge until ready to use), and the fireworks are calling my name (It's actually Sunday night as I'm writing this. I'm just not this coherent on Monday Morning.)

Thou art Replete with Very Thou

There are, I imagine, women, who faced with the death of their baby, that scream. Who do not care who hears them. Who can fathom no other reaction to such horror and grief than primordial and honest screams and moans. And I admire them. They possess an openness and a vulnerability that I lack.

I can imagine these women, but I am not one of them. My tears, by in large, are silent, hidden, held to myself. Expressed in the bathroom at work or at church, in a chair in my kitchen late at night, over my keyboard. I do not cry in public. My silent tears at my son's funeral were likely the last that many saw on my face. I do not cry in public. I have not screamed or wailed.

And I was thinking of these women, as I cried last night. I am thinking of their sounds, of sounds of grief that do not need words. Of sounds that slice through world hardened layers of cynicism, through pride and callousness. With only the dogs to hear me, I wondered if our friends know about my tears. Perhaps if they saw tears, they would be more moved to compassion. They would understand fear and pain and sorrow and longing a bit better. Perhaps then, they would leave themselves behind, and their falseness, and simply abide with us.

I have been thinking about fear a lot this week. I have gone searching through my Bible, and I can find references to fear, and I can find people who felt fear, and I cannot silence this voice in the back of my mind that tells me it is a sin to feel fear. My fear and concern and confusion run as deep as the screams of others. And I do not know what to do with them. They will not be satisfied, my faith will not rest with easy and simple answers. Broken by the cruelty of death and the callousness of others, I want to make sense of it all.

If thou could'st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, "this is not dead,"
And fill the with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewed activity,
That when He comes He says "this is enow Unto iteslf
- 'twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me."

Like I always do, I go back to scripture. And there are verses. Lots of verses. Telling me to fear God, and not the works of man. Telling me not to be afraid. But there are also stories. Moses, who did not want to tell Pharaoh to let God's people go. David, on the run. Stories of those who lived in fear. And nowhere do I see what I should do. I read for 3 hours last night, searching for the answer. Searching for the sentence that would tell me what to do, how to cope. What support to expect. How to get through these days.

I search out God. I ask about fear. The Christian duty of care. I ask what to do. I ask how to cope. I pray, not looking for pious platitudes of "take each day as it comes" or "don't think about it", but the big answers. The archetypes. How to live. What heartbreak means. What pain and sorrow and suffering and indifference mean and what they do to us. How to find joy and care and compassion. How to live in the unknowable. How to live in the pain-filled. How to live in a space where the lines between life and death, this world and the next, are so very faint.

And He tells me. Not in His word, not in the silence, no, He tells me in a children's story. About death, and life, about a deep and dazzling darkness.

"Thou art replete with very thou".

And I am not so sure I like this answer.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605 - 1682)
Quoted from A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeline L'Engle (1918 - 2007)

Saturday's are For Quotes

"Heirloom" is knitting code for "This pattern is so difficult
that you would consider death a relief.
~Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much
(it's coming. Slowly. But coming. I will win. Can't talk. Must knit)

Dear Knitting Fates

A moment of your time, if you please.

I would like you to know - I am a nice person. I eat my vegetables, weed my flower beds, keep a clean-ish house, am nice to my mother, pay my bills on time (mostly) and volunteer. Really, truly, I'm nice. People even like me.

I started this shawl in plenty of time. I really did. I had 32 weeks. Well, 30 by the time you figured in shipping. I bought good quality wool. Even if it is like knitting with dental floss. And the mum? She is eminently deserving. According to all the things that govern the knitting world, this project should have worked extremely well.

I tried not to take it personally, when I couldn't make the Yarn Harlot's shawl pattern work for me. Honest. I reminded myself that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is a darn talented knitter. (Steeks!) She can do thing's that I can only dream of, truly. Yea, I bow at her feet, I do. I forgave my inability to count to 5 (or was it 8?)

I did not cry, when in the middle of a lace knitting class, my shawl turned into a snarly, knotty mess, and I had no idea where I was, in spite of stitch markers and post-it notes and highlighting. I accepted that this shawl was not destined to be mine to knit. (Although, I would like you to know, dear Fate, the knitting store women had thought I was an intelligent person, up to this point.). And Steph, I'm really sorry for the things I might have said about your pattern. Honest. Come to Edmonton, and I'll buy you a beer. Or, a lot of beer.

Indeed, I accepted that I should pick another pattern. And when that pattern didn't work out, I picked a 3rd pattern. And that didn't work out (apparently, counting to three is also a problem), and my size 5 knitting needle ran away from me, and I accepted that I was going to have to do something, because the mum, she wasn't getting any less pregnant.

Now, you listen to me, Knitting Fates. I have purchased a pattern. The pattern is not hard. I have purchased $16 knitting needles from Addi. I mean it knitting fates. This time, the shawl will work. I have hit the wall. The mother is really quite pregnant. I am running out of time. She is running out of time. And I am starting to take this VERY personally.

I am going to have a nap. And then, I am going to start this shawl/blanket/wrap. And it is going to work to wrap this wee babe in. I will knit from now until the end of the weekend. I will do nothing but knit. I will not be deterred. I will eat such food as I can scavenge from my pantry without cooking. I will watch bad television show re-runs. I mean it knitting fates, this time, I mean business.


(Now, dear readers, if you'll forgive me, I probably won't post much this weekend. Either the shawl/wrap/blanket will work, or I will have killed myself with $16 knitting needles)

Was and Were

Ahh, Excavator, God bless her, has asked a good question about was and were. And I don't know the answer off the top of my head. Go and see the comments on Wednesday's grammar lesson.

I am going to research subjunctive and conjunctive something or other's. And I will get back to you. Honest.

Just not right now.

They aRe ComMING to Get Me

Pls send help - the zucchini are taking over.

They are leaving the garden, and they don't care that they are growing in the rocks.

They are taking over. Completely. They don't care what they crowd out. And I am running out of neighbour front porches to hide the zucchini on. Why just this evening my amazing neighbour went running past with her dog. She cringed when I said hello. Surely they couldn't have told her already about the spate of zucchini-ings lately. Surely not.
See, it is even fraternizing with the carrots. It's already ditched the lettuce. And in a Christian home. Call the preacher. Call the weed eater. Call someone!

Ahh, finally - something that is not growing out of control, Christie's rose, in Gabriel's garden. It's a foxi pavement rose. It's hot pink. Christie likes pink.


I understand now. What I was asking about, when I asked about what to say to those who only focus on a 70% chance of a baby living.

I understand. Behind the numbers, the scenario's, the low dose aspirin, the serial ultrasounds, the plans, I am really holding out my hands and saying:

I am frightened.

I am frightened. Will you hold my hand?

Will you hold my hand and tell me that you will stay with me?
Walk with me?

We have learned that there are going to be those who will not hold our hand. Who would not come close to such sadness and sorrow and fear. Those who would insulate themselves from us, hide behind their children, their faith, sunshine and roses. They would not walk through the valley of the shadow of death with us. They would be on the cliffs above, saying "that must really suck." And perhaps, they would not realize that the sub-context of our conversations about statistics is about fear.

And I believe that God will be with me. He will understand my fear, he sobs with me. His rod and his staff, they do guide me and comfort me. I know His Son understands the feeling of being forsaken. But I need others, too.

What I am asking, when I tell people about the risks is this:

Will you hold my hand. Will you acknowledge our fear? Will you understand that I am frightened? I am frightened of days of worry, of constant concern that pre-eclampsia is starting again. Will you understand that there is nothing that can be done? There is no fix, no magic bullet, no cure. There is only waiting. And fear. And the comfort provided by those who sit with us. Who pray with us. Who bear this burden, with us.

Will you understand that I am frightened that I will die? Will you understand that I am frightened that I will have to leave Mr. Spit behind? Will you understand that my greatest joy has been to be his wife, and that I do not want to leave him? Will you understand that I am concerned that my life will be reduced to a few lines in the newspaper? Will you understand that I am concerned about all I have left to do, to be?

Will you understand that I am afraid that my world will fall to pieces? That in another instant, my life will be shattered, again? And Mr. Spit and I will be left to cradle another lifeless infant? We will be left to plan another funeral, plant another tree. Pack up nursery furniture. Acknowledge, with the death of another child, that our plans are over. Will you understand my sorrow at never again feeling my abdomen swell, never feeling the secret communication that is a baby kick?

Will you understand that we will give up dreams for children? Will you understand that we will never have a first day of school, never send a child to university, never be at our child's wedding? Will you understand, as we participate in those things for your children, that we grieve our own? Will you be with us as we wash and dress a child for the first and last time, again? Will you hold our hand as we pray the prayers of baptism over an infant who will never take the vows confirmation?

Or, if things turn differently, will you be with us as we sit next to an isolette, willing bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh to just take another breath. And another? Will you understand our obsession with gaining grams of weight. In a long and hard journey through NICU, will you stay with us? Or will you forge on ahead? Will you celebrate the victory of a level 2 brain bleed, because it is not all that serious? Will you sit with us when the fear and the worry leave us breathless, and we do not think we can live another moment with our heart and soul breathing labouredly in an isolette, where we cannot keep it safe?

And if, if the worst happens, and our world shatters again? If we bury another child? If then, will you walk into that dark and sad place, and silently, slowly, gently, begin locating the pieces of our souls and hearts, and will you carefully stack them up? Will you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, will you hold us up, when we fall down? Will you sit with us when we cannot walk, and walk with us when we cannot run? Will you come and stay, and hold our hand? Will you sit and cry with us?

When you look at your own children, will you remember ours? Will you remember what was supposed to be? Will you understand that the sorrow of lost children is always with us? We are always aware of who is not here, that should be?

I am frightened. Behind statistics is fear.

Wednesday's are for Grammar

Now class, did you all do your homework? Remember - our example was:

The smarty-pants, Mrs. Spit, is a really good grammar teacher.

And you were to find the subject and the predicate? Let's check your answers.

The Simple Subject:
Mrs. Spit - It's Mrs. Spit that is the really good grammar teacher.
The Compound Subject:
The smarty-pants, Mrs. Spit - smarty pants is an adjective that describes Mrs. Spit.
The Simple Predicate:
is - remember the predicate describes the actions, the experience or the state of being of the subject. In this case, Mrs. Spit has the nominative of being a really good grammar teacher.
The Compound Predicate:
Is a really good grammar teacher. The compound describes the rest of the state of being.

Today's Lesson - Parts of Speech

In this lesson you get to learn "those big grammar words". All words form a part of speech. Every word in a sentence should have a part of speech associated with it. So, the basic parts of speech are:

  • Verb
  • Noun
  • Pronoun
  • Adjective
A verb expresses an action, an occurrence or a state of being.
- Mrs. Spit dances - what is she doing - she's dancing.
- Mrs. Spit became grumpy - what state of being is she - she's grumpy. Remember - the grumpy is just a description of my state of being. It's the became that is the action.
- Mrs. Spit was hit by a flying baseball. This sentence is a bit trickier. Many of you might select flying as the verb, but remember, the flying describes the baseball, not the subject of the sentence - Mrs. Spit. In this case the verb is was. Was is a form of verb called a linking verb. Linking Verbs connect our subject with the words that describe the subject. (also called a subject complement).

There are also axillary or helping verbs (doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy, there are verbs that want to help you!) An axillary verb is a form of one of the following verbs(1):

  • be
  • do
  • have
  • can
  • may
  • will
Nouns and Pronouns.
A noun is a person, place or thing or idea.
- Mrs. Spit drank whisky - the noun is the whisky(2).
- Mrs. Spit is Mr. Spit's wife - this sentence has two nouns. Wife and Mr. Spit. Mr. Spit is a proper noun, meaning that it refers to a specific person, place or thing. We always capitalize proper nouns.
- She is a gardener. Can anyone tell me what the noun is? (Kuri, I'm looking at you!). That's right, there's two. Gardener is a noun, and so is "she". She is a pronoun.

A pronoun is a word or group of words that replaces a noun. If you replace your kid's name with he or him; or when you are really mad at your neighbour, and you call him a womble (3), you are using a pronoun. (4)

An adjective is one of the simpler things to find in a sentence. It describes the verb or modifies it.
- The very pretty Mrs. Spit is a good wife. And the adjectives are (I'm looking at you Mr. Spit). Yes, that's right, very pretty and good wife. The very pretty describes the subject, and the good wife describe my state of being.
There is also a set of adjectives that are called limiting adjectives. They describe the relationship to something.
- That is Mrs. Spit's car. In this case, the "that" is a limiting adjective. It describes a particular car as belonging to Mrs. Spit. (5). For those of you who remember yesterday, Kendra's use of whose was also an adjective. (Point 3)
- Few women today are like Mrs. spit. In this case, we are limiting the noun - women - with the idea that Mrs. Spit is a one of a kind (Few).

Next week, we'll talk about

  • Adverbs
  • Prepositions
  • Conjunctions
  • Interjections
  • Expletives (I expect you to get a 100% on this section)

Your Homework

Mrs. Spit went to the amazing knitting store.

Find the Verb, the Adjective, the Noun (Including proper nouns).

And really class, do try harder to get your homework done.

(1) Yeah, ok, there are many axillary verbs. And I'm not going to list them all. Move on.
(2) Actually to be specific, I drink bourbon. Maker's Mark. And you get bonus points if you can tell me whether the name of the bourbon is a noun or a proper noun.
(3) A la Jeremy Clarkson, from Top Gear.
(4) See, and you are just thinking you were being an awful neighbour - and maybe you are, but you are being grammatically correct while you do so.
(5) You might also be able to figure it out by the plethora of dog hair in it.

Why I Want More than One Child

My hairdresser tells one of those stories that are hysterically funny with the gift of time. She calls it "The peeing night" story. You can imagine why. As said hairdresser was about to completely lose any grasp on her sanity, child-the-older daughter looked at her and said "Mummy, why did you have child-the-younger." I suspect that my hairdresser was wondering why she had *any* children, but her immediate thought was "Because I didn't want you to be alone when mummy died". She didn't answer with this.

I went to my mother's to feed her cat on Sunday. Not speaking to her aside, I'm the only child, and the cat has to be fed. It's tricky. Don't ask too many questions. I'm surviving with this strategy.

And I went into mum's apartment, and I walked into the kitchen, and all the cupboards were open. And thought I: "Wow, she must have been in a hurry to leave". Then I walked into the dinning room, and the buffet drawers were open, and yes, that was when the penny dropped. The house had been tossed and robbed. So, I phoned the police. And waited for the forensic team. Who agreed to meet me at 12:30 am. I remembered my hairdresser's story.

And as I was waiting in the rain in the middle of the night, I thought, "I am going to have more than one child." Because, more than anything, I wanted a sibling to call and say: "I slept at the hospital last year, when she had the heart issue. You know, the one where she collapsed at my favourite restaurant and then woke up and puked on their floor. You know, the one I have never been back to?". And I drove her around and worked from her house when she had the stroke two years ago. I got four cups of coffee in 30 minutes, when her hand couldn't grasp them, and she kept dropping them, and my pride for her lost and wounded soul wouldn't let me get her a cup with a lid. I held her hand and dried her frustrated and frightened tears, and told her that we would get through this too."

And more than anything, I wanted to say:

"I don't mind, I am her daughter, and I will do this, and it's my job, and I will spend three hours cleaning up, in the middle of the night, and then I will take all her unmentionables home and wash them, and I will call in sick to work tomorrow to be with her, so that when she comes home, she doesn't go into a house alone, even though I have completely cleaned it all up, and you would never know it had been broken into. I will do these things, because it is my job, and it is bad enough to have your sanctuary invaded without cleaning finger print powder off your empty jewelery box, and thinking of Nana's jewelery that wasn't worth much, but was precious anyway. And I am this family, and I am hers, and she is mine". But more than anything, just because I was weary, I wanted to say:

"Sibling mine, it's your turn now."

And there is no sibling. It's just me. It's always been me.

And more than anything, I don't want that for my children. I pray there will come a time that an older child asks why the younger child had to be born, and I will think:

"I had another child, so that when I am 90, and stark naked on the roof of this house, for the fourth time in a month, and you cannot convince me that there are no aliens, and they are not going to take me home, and I can get off the roof now. . . "

Then you have someone to call, and say:

"It's your turn now."

Because, children of mine, you will not be alone. There will be no only, no last. You will not be the last of a long line of women who take control of an impossible situation, you will not be the only person that understands how to correctly set a table and seat the Queen at a dinner party. You will not be the last to use your great-grandmother's china, that came from a Boston Ship Captain, sent to a young woman, so many years ago, that he was not allowed to marry.

Because you will not be the only person to weed a flower garden, grown for the express purpose of flowers for the Altar on Sunday. And you will grow those flowers for the altar, because you will be in Altar Guild, just like the rest of our family, and you will know the flowers that your great grandmother liked, and you will not be the only person to plant iris's for your Nana, because they bloom for her birthday, and you will not be the only person to plant lilies for your mother.

You will not be the only person to toast the Queen on her Birthday. You will not be the only person eating Colette's Tourtiere on Christmas Eve. And I will tell you the story of Aunty Gen, and her mother Colette, whom I call every year to get the instructions about what to with the potato; because I never remember, and it wouldn't be Christmas without calling Colette and Gen. And you will remember them too. You will not be the only woman to bake Yorkshire pudding in a 400 degree oven, in the heat of summer, because that's what you have with a proper roast of beef. You will not be the last to hold up a baby's finger, to check for the crook in the left ring finger, that we all have.

You will not be the last, my children.
And when I am gone from this world,
you will not be alone.

Would You Please . . . .

Go wish Becky a happy birthday! (And Beck, sorry about the 65 on the cake. I just noticed it. I'm not implying that you are hitting retirement age. . . )

And Kendra: you're a bag. A bag with bad grammar. I'm not sure what's worse. Your miserable attitude, or your inability to chastise someone without looking like a monkey that can't write in English. But just for future reference:

1. "He is supporting you being able to stay home" - this is an incorrect conjugation. (Possibly not the only thing incorrect in your life, but whatever). Should you wish to be correct, perhaps you could try something like "He supports you so that you can stay home."

2. "I understand being a little upset but . . . " A hint. Whenever you find yourself using two contrasting ideas in a sentence, that have equal weight, you are using two clauses (No, not Santa, but you are probably on his naughty list and haven't seen him in a while). When you use 2 clauses, you separate them with a comma.

3. "Also, they are whose (sic) responsible for your birth." So, there are two problems with this sentence: firstly, it's not a complete sentence, and um, you meant who is. Whose is an adjective. Who is, is a gerund. It would be good if you could keep them straight. Especially as we are wondering who you are, and what happened to make you so mean.

4. "They are who you should be with". Well, actually, they are (at least in your odd little world) whom she should be with. I know the who/whom thing is tricky.

5. "If your husband misses your KIDS birthday completely". This is a possessive. The birthday belongs to the kids. Becky's birthday, on the other hand, belongs to her. Please use an apostrophe to indicate this, and please just let Becky celebrate in peace.

6. "Wiping poopy buts". In this particular set of circumstances, butts has two T's. Courtesy on the other hand, only has one. Perhaps you could have paid more attention to that courtesy?

7. "2.5" kids. Around the IF and babyloss world, we don't count babies in the womb or birds in the bush. How nice that you have always been able to count yours from day one. The rest of us count about when they start first grade. We consider counting them any earlier as hexing someone. This alone is enough to incur my wrath.

240 words, with 6 major grammatical mistakes, and a virulent display of meanness.

My mother had a saying. "Is it nice, is it true, and last but not least, does it need to be said." If you can't figure that out, I offer grammar lessons every Wednesday. Stick around.

(and there I was, complaining to Mr. Spit I had nothing to write about today!)

The Vet Visit

Monday Miscellany

As promised, a Canadian Moose for JamieD at The Therapist Is In. I thought we had at least one picture of an actual moose, by you know, their natural habitat - the middle of the highway, but no.
  • Does anyone have a recipe that uses cubed bread? I have some consecrated bread from church (we usually use those wafer dealies, but for the children's first Communion, the kids bake bread). Anyway, I tried to feed it to the geese, but they wouldn't take it. What can I do with frozen bread? (I can't throw it out- it must be consumed). I'm looking for something more inspired than bourbon bread pudding.
  • Is it just me, or does blogger randomly refuse to accept your stupid security letters, even though you are convinced you have correctly the odd assortment of Swahili that they have trotted out to torture you?
  • Today is "vet day" here at chez Spit. You know, the day in which every single animal in the house goes to the vet. All at once. Yep, it's a great day, hauling 250 pounds of animal to a place that they don't like to go. Great fun.
  • And we have a house appraiser coming to appraise Chez Spit. So, if you could pray/cross your fingers/hold your eyebrows correctly/sacrifice a goat that we at least make the value that the City of Edmonton says the house is worth, that would be helpful.
  • I am missing a US size 5 needle for the blogger baby shawl, that is still not behaving well. I have hopes of beating knitting it into submission, but, umm, if you see my purple size 5 needle, do you think you could send it on home? It's just that for some peculiar reason, it's the only size five needle I have.
  • And the very best news for last: The fabulous, wonderful, splendid and altogether heroic Sam has given me chocolate. Her blogiversary and I get chocolate. I call that a stand up kind of woman! (And Mr. Spit, if you aren't present when it arrives at my office, sorry, but you lose!)

Weekends Are For Quotes

Seemed appropriate.

Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off.
~Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct

I always find that statistics are hard to swallow and impossible to digest. The only one I can ever remember is that if all the people who go to sleep in church were laid end to end they would be a lot more comfortable.
~Mrs. Robert A. Taft

I have decided, that I do indeed, want a medal and for people to tell me that I am brave. If I cannot have a medal and be told that I am brave, I would like for people to at least be silent. I would like people to understand that this will not be easy, simple or relaxing. Weeks 20-28 will be as close to hell as I would like to come, again.

Risk Management

I have struggled with how to write this post. I have thought about the issue from a multitude of different directions, and I still have 10 puddles of discrete thought, and no idea of how to collect these thoughts into one body of water. And I need some help.

1. In my professional life, I spend a large part of my time managing risk for the organization I work for. Managing risk is handled in a variety of different ways, through policy, through training staff to be aware of and address risks, through computer systems that flag certain things or don't let staff perform certain functions, through identification, through common sense. Much of what I do is about identifying a risk, quantifying it, and determining what, if anything, should be done about it.

2. How do we quantify risk? We use a measure of Probability (P), Impact (I) and Cost (C). In other words, we take the likelihood that this will happen (P), the impact to the organization (I) and then we try to figure out what it would cost the organization to fix it (C). Which turns the entire question into a number and a mathematical equation, that we can apply some certainty too. Part of the risk tolerance business is trending. Just getting a number doesn't help much. You need to compare the number against something. Options include doing nothing, using another solution, outsourcing the work to someone more experienced. That's how you take the risk number, and start getting somewhere with it.

3. What does the risk number actually mean? If I told you that there was a risk of 1 in 1800 that an asteroid would hit the earth and wipe out your entire country, you are very likely to shrug your shoulders and say 'oh well, gotta go sometime'. This is because while the I (wipe out your entire country) is very high, the probability (1 in 1800 chance each century) is very low. There are much more likely things to happen. If I told you that the probability that you would change jobs is very great, but in all likelihood you will make more money when you change jobs, you are also equally likely to shrug your shoulders. The P is great, but the I is likely low.

4. So, I come back to my conversation last night - where someone asked how likely it was that "it" would happen again. It, of course, meaning, will another baby die. 30% I answered. I have a 30% chance of developing pre-eclampsia between 23-26 weeks, before the threshold of "real" viability. Which means, a 30% chance of another baby dying. Invariably people respond that "oh, so a 70% chance of another baby living - that's good news, focus on that." And invariably, I want to scream.

5. Part of it is the numbers. I am 60 times more likely to loose a baby. The average woman has a 99.5 percent chance of being presented with a screaming, wiggling baby at the end of her labour. I have, at best a 70 percent chance, and that doesn't take into account the risks of a premature baby. You see, if we say the impact (I) is "dead baby", and my probability is much greater, it's just not something I can ignore.

6. So then, we might ask what the medical experts and I can do to reduce either the probability or the impact, or both. That's what you would usually do to manage risk. And the answer is: a whole lot of not much. Low Dose Aspirin, which might help, although there are no large studies. There are also no large studies about the risk of the drug to a foetus. Blood pressure medications, which don't halt the progression of the disease, but may buy some more time. Diuretics, which may help my kidneys. Magnesium Sulfate, which prevents seizures and saves lives. Serial ultrasounds, which will at least tell us if something is up. Putting me on bed rest. "We'll watch you very closely", the Doctor's say. And I have this wonderful and terrible image of roadrunner watching Wylie E. Coyote going over the cliff with the acme jet engine strapped to his back. Really, not a whole lot of things to do. And it's not that my doctor's are bad, it's just that truly, there isn't much they can do about a disease that they don't know how to cure, because they don't know what causes it.

7. I come back to those words, "a 70 percent chance the baby won't die". And I have heard this from so many people. Now, some of them are the "sunshine and roses" brigade, any disturbing news upsets them, so they focus on the positive. I have to confess, I'm generally speaking, a focus on the positive kind of person. Up until the moment that they told me that they had to induce me, I was positive, I held on to Gabriel living. I would rather dwell on the good than the bad. But in this case, the risk is higher, and the bad, well it's just so very bad, and it's a bad I know so excruciatingly well.

8. Now, I want to take their heads, and beat them around a bit. I want to tell them, if you think a 70 percent survival rate is so wonderful, you take a look at the three people you love most, and tell me which one you think should die. And I will happily tell you that "hey, at least the other two lived!". Because these odds, they totally suck. Totally, absolutely, completely.

9. And I don't know why their optimism bothers me. Obviously Mr. Spit and I have looked at the odds, and we are willing to try again. Obviously we are hopeful for that screaming baby. I don't think we are blindly stupid, ignoring the risks. But we are obviously hopeful that this time it's our turn to win on the giant roulette wheel of life. (In which your odds are 35:1)

10. But please, and this is the help part of the question if you are still with me. What do I say to people who only talk about the 70%? How do I communicate how concerned we are about the 30%. How do I communicate that my risk is way higher? Should I even do that? I don't want a medal for getting pregnant, I don't want to be told I'm brave, but I do want everyone to know it won't be easy, and it may not turn out as planned? I need people to understand that everything is not "ok", and it may not turn out well, and I have a much higher risk of it not turning out well.

Am I loosing my mind for expecting, hoping, wanting people to understand this?

'Fess Up Now (And Winners!)

The first thing to announce:

And the Winner of Whinge-For-All Thursday is:


C'mon down to the winners circle. (And send me an email with an address I can send the hat too!)

I'm sitting at work, listening to my iPod touch, and I'm wondering. What songs do you have a secret affection, that you would die if your spouse/children/friends knew you listened to?

Here's my list to start you off:

  1. Mambo Italiano by Rosemary Clooney
  2. Downtown by Petula Clarke
  3. I'm Too Sexy by Right Said Fred
  4. Angel of the Morning by Juice Newton
  5. Mama's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys by Waylon Jennings
  6. Garden Party by Ricky Nelson
  7. Life in a Northern Town by The Dream Academy
  8. I'm With the Band by Little Big Town
  9. I Drove All Night by Cyndi Lauper
  10. Dancing Queen by ABBA

    Tell us now, what do you listen too, that you can't believe you like?

My Favourite Things

Because it's the Thursday after Whinge-For-All Thursday, and it's tradition. And I like tradition - I'm an Anglican.

My Favourite Candy (In no particular order):
  1. Bridge Mixture
  2. Licorice
  3. Crunchie Chocolate Bars
  4. Salt Water Taffy
  5. Those hard raspberry and black currant candies that you used to be able to get in tins, but alas, I can't seem to find any more.

What's yours?

I'll announce the winner of Whinge-For-All Thursday tomorrow morning. As soon as I can find my cat to pick a name.

A Moment S'il Vous Plait

It started, possibly last night, when arriving at home at 10 pm to a house of dogs that were hungry, and a cat who was mad, and a husband out of town, that I realized that I had neglected to go and get more blood pressure medication. Which I expected would be a problem tomorrow. Unsurprisingly no one magically left an Atacand (16mg, please) on my bathroom counter. It was, indeed a problem this morning. It is still, indeed, a problem now.

Possibly, it started this morning, when I checked my email, and Amazon was offering me a deal on my planning and executing my summer divorce. 30% off. Great. I wasn't planning a summer divorce. (Winter is so much more conducive to bitterness anyway). Why couldn't they offer me a discount on something that I might find useful? Like a book on how to solve all your knitting projects. Or how to make your dishes do themselves?

They were forecasting a 30% chance of rain this morning, as it started to rain. I love it when they tell you it's a possibility that it might rain, as it's raining. I love Environment Canada. Great folks. What's next? .3 milliseconds warning before the tornado touches my house? If that would take care of the dog piddle puddle in the bathroom from a mastiff who is displeased that her daddy isn't home?

I spent 20 minutes in a meeting, explaining with the supervisor, or I'm sorry, let me spell that correctly, the stuporvisor, that when the post it note slapped right on the front of the research says that this won't be mentioned in the briefing note, and explains why, it is, under *any* circumstances unreasonable to ask why this information isn't in the briefing note. Why? Cause it makes me wonder how you find your way home every night. Oh, your husband drove you? Good, cause you might make it back tomorrow. To further torture me.

I spent my time, thinking about the blogger baby shawl, for the mother, who is ahem, further ahead in this whole pregnancy thing than I thought she was. Which means that I have a shawl due in about 2 months, and it's a few hours of work. The thing is presently not behaving, and while I know the lace pattern was for socks, and I am knitting with something that is the equivalent of dental floss (but a lot more expensive) the pattern should still work. And it's not. And it looks profoundly stupid. And not just because it's small. Blocking will not help this.

I took my knitting, just now, to the Second Cup Low Altar of Caffeine, but what with the blood pressure that spiked up after my two latte day yesterday, I had to have decaf tea. Which made the guy who makes my "usual" laugh. At me. Who had no caffeine. And was looking like a drowned rat. Because it was pissing rain. And I sat down with my decaf tea. (Tea, I can hardly bear to speak the word. Not coffee, not blessed elixir, tea. Pah!)

And I reach into the knitting bag, and I pull out blogger baby shawl (all 3 inches of it) and I realize that I only have one needle. And there is no way I am going to knit this thing on one needle. One Needle = crochet. Two Needles - Knitting. Which means walking back to the office, in the pissing rain. To get the shell I am knitting. You know, the one that I am in knitterly denial over. Of course I can get cotton to stretch 6 inches across my body. Yep, blocking will take care of this. (If you aren't a knitter, pretty much all you need to know is that I'm living in a fantasy world here, and I'm not sharing the drugs). But, to take the edge off, I am going to keep knitting. I am going to magically shrink or increase 6 inches. I am that powerful.

And someone, I'd like what's behind door number two. Door number one is not so great.

I think. Just Maybe. I. Am. Having. A. Moment.

Go do your grammar homework. One person got the predicate right. No one has the subject right.

And I and me, and lose and loose drive me crazy too. To and Too also drive me crazy. And don't get me started on impact as a verbal!

Wednesday's are for Grammar

About a year ago, I found myself explaining to my supervisor that "that word is an adverb. It must end in -ly. I'm sorry, but that's the grammar rule".

Her response: "Don't use big grammar words with me."

Gerund. Possessive. Ampersand. Predicate. Appositive.
Subjunctive voice. Co-ordinating clause.

We had another discussion the other day, supervisor and I. I know that possessives with an 's' are complicated. It's just that I think that you should put your big girl you-know-what's on, and deal with them.

I'm maybe a little grumpy. So I decided, because I can't teach her grammar, I'll teach all of you. Because really, it's not about education, it's about power and control and frustration. And I'm sorry, but until I get it out of my system, well,

there will be grammar lessons.

You might learn things. At the least you will be able to drop "gerund" into a sentence and amaze your friends and astound your family.

Today's Lesson:

Subjects and Predicates

Really, they aren't scary, class. Honest. They are even fun (1). They form the backbone of every sentance. And every complete sentance has a subject (or maybe two) and a predicate.

So, what is a subject?

A subject is the thing(2) in a sentence that takes the action - you could call it a receiver. It acts, is described or is acted upon. You could call it an actor too. It's what or who the sentance is about.

So, in the sentence: "Mrs. Spit was grumpy with her boss."

Can anyone tell me what the subject is? Anyone? (I'm looking at you LoriBeth!)
Yes, that's right. Mrs. Spit is the subject. She's the person who's acting, or in this case, feeling.

Ok then, if you have subjects down, what is a predicate?

A predicate is the part of the sentence that takes the action, the description, or is acted upon. It tells you what is being done to the subject, it describes the subject, or it tells you what the subject did. Back to our example:

Mrs. Spit was grumpy with her boss.

What's the object?(3) Anyone? Class? (I'm looking at you now Aunt Becky)
Yes, that's right - "was "
was tells you that I, the subject, experienced feelings of grumpiness.

There are simple subjects (Mrs. Spit) and compound subjects (Mr and Mrs. Spit or the very pretty Mrs. Spit)

There are simple predicates (was) and compound predicates (was grumpy).

So, we have the subject - what or who the sentance is about. And we have the predicate, the information about what the subject is feeling, experiencing or having happen to them.

Your homework:
*Insert groan here*. Find the subject and the predicate of the sentence, and identify if they are compound or simple subjects and predicates, in the comments.

The smarty-pants, Mrs. Spit, is a really good grammar teacher.

A really big star for all of you who get it right. And, as an additional bonus, if there is a grammar question you have always had, feel free to ask away. It can be next week's lesson.

(1) ok, I'm exaggerating, maybe just a bit.
(2) this is highly technical grammar language. We will talk about nouns and verbs at a later date.
(3) Yes, you get extra points if you tell me the object is that Mrs. Spit should drink more whisky sours. Extra extra points if you send her whisky.

All Beautiful Things Live in Memory

I believe that even if every single person forgot Gabriel, even if I forgot, God would still remember the life that He created, the life that He received back. But, I am struck by the power of memory. I am struck by the deep yearning humans so often have within them, to remember. To honour. To proclaim the worth of a life. To celebrate how we were touched. To instill memory. I believe that it is a sacred trust to keep a memory alive.

The Inuit in Canada's north use things called Inuksuit or Inukshuk's as markers. You see them on the frozen tundra - solitary clumps of stone, often looking like humans. I was about 7 the first time I saw one, in Yellowknife to visit family, and my uncle took me to them. He talked about how the Inuit used them, to mark something. Direction, a path, a food cache, a good hunt. In the frozen tundra that is so very flat, it's easy to get disorientated. An Inuksuit is a sign post. A physical sign of something that has happened, been discovered.

It interests me in the Old Testament, that every time the Lord did something for someone, every time He showed himself to a person or a group of people, or every time the nation of Israel celebrated a victory, a lesson learned, a loss, He commanded them to build an altar. Out of rock. A solid and impermeable thing to mark what had happened. And when you read the OT, you will see reference to earlier altars, still in use. I sometimes wonder if these are the earliest recorded sacraments, an outward sign of an inward grace. A reminder that when things change in our hearts, we should change ourselves to accommodate our hearts. A physical reminder of an emotional change.

I have been thinking about why we planted a tree for Gabriel. For a long time, I couldn't tell you. I didn't know. I knew that it mattered, I knew that I wanted to, I knew that it was important, but I couldn't translate these feelings, longings into words. And words matter to me. Explanations matter to me. I like to know why I do things. I use words to describe, to explain, to bound my feelings, my thoughts.

We are moving on, Mr. Spit and I. Sometimes slowly, sometimes haltingly, often not sure what's next. But moving on. We are writing the end of a chapter. Gabriel will continue on in the book. He will always be a part of the cast of characters that is the story of my life. But he is no longer the main character, the only character. I can be Gabriel's mother, and the mother of another child. There will be paragraphs that belong to him in the new chapter. Parts where he is spoken of more than others. We will not leave him behind, he is part of the story.

As I pondered this business of moving on to another chapter, I realized what the tree was. It was my altar, my Inuksuit. It was the marker that there had been a baby, his name was Gabriel, and he is in heaven. It marks too, that I am here on earth, and Gabriel and I are on separate paths. I have a life to live, commitments to meet, things to do. I am still a wife, still a friend, still an employee, still a volunteer. I am still far from heaven.

I am also still Gabriel's mother. I cannot leave him behind, but I can close the chapter of the book. I can set Gabriel down, in a way. I can realize that our path's have diverged for now, and they will re-unite in heaven. I can leave him at the tree. I can allow the tree to remember for me, to mark and honour for me. To be the outward sign that something happened when Gabriel was conceived, something happened in those long months that he grew in me. Something happened in those altogether short moments that we were together. I changed, accommodated, became a different person.

All beautiful things live in memory. That's what Gabriel's tree is for. It is the living memory of what was, so that I can move into what will be. It contains within its sap, its leaves, its roots my memories, my sorrow and my grief. So that I can be whole.

Monday Miscellany

- I'm thinking of getting my ears pierced again. I used to have them pierced, but I found that the backs of the earrings would dig into my neck when I was on the phone. Comments?

- Before I started blogging, I read about 8 blogs.
- Yarn Harlot
- Crazy Aunt Purl
- Natural Mommy
- Stirrup Queens (I call it the Mother Ship)
- Rocks in My Dryer (stopped reading a while ago)
- A Day Late and A Dollar Short (knitting sale, you should look at her blog!)
- Felix Hominum
- Pearls

- At the start of NoComLeaveMo, I moved to Google reader. I was probably reading about 20 blogs.

- I checked my Google reader today. I am subscribed to 86 blogs. And I read them all. I'd say that's a success.

- On that note, I'd like to update my blog roll. I won't even aspire to be Lolly, but I will add you, if you either pick a category that already exists (and if you'd like to be remembered with your wee one's name, let me know that), or by picking a category of your own. Because, I am not very creative that way. Leave notes in the comments, or drop me a line.
- And FINALLY, a reminder. Whinge for All Thursday. You know, that thing I knit a hat for, with my own two hands. We are doing very poorly with the comments, dear readers. Tsk, tsk. If you haven't gone to whinge, would you please?
- And where is JuliaS? I love her whinges about her very sweet husband that steals her towels, and can't put the toilet paper rolls on right! Oh JuliaS? Where art thou?

At Least I Don't Squeeze the Toothpaste from the Top

So, according to the 1930's housewife test:

- I got points because I don't squeeze the toothpast from the top.

- I can't play a musical instrument (subtract a thousand points!)

- I don't want to get up for breakfast (subtract a thousand points!)
- I don't dress for breakfast (umm, how do I do this when I am still in bed. I'm giving myself back the thousand points!)
- Fails to sew buttons on, or darn socks. (But I do - I take the clothing to the tailors, and I hold the socks over the garbage can and say "darn, darn". I'm giving myself another thousand points, because I actually knit Mr. Spit socks out of a wool cashmere blend. So there!)

- Give husband shampoo or manicure (What, are you a freak? He can wash his own hair and clip his own nails, darn it! Dumb question. I'm giving myself a hundred points for just reading it)

- Has minor children to care for - list number (Umm, just don't go there, ok? I get a million points for what I've been through)

- Neat Housekeeper - tidy and clean. (I'm going to hell, aren't I? Ok, take away 10,000 points)

- Puts her cold feet on husband to warm them. (What, that's not a virtue?)

- Walks around house in stocking feet. (Uh, huh. Must be an American question. Canadian's take off their shoes. Really, we do. Another hundred points for reading a dumb question!)

According to my precise calculations, I get all the points I need to be a superb wife. So there, stupid test.


As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!

(Images of the Famous Five, who were also scorned and ridiculed for being bad housewives. You can read about them here.)