Thyme

I began the process of putting the garden to bed yesterday.

The process of cutting down perennials, and uprooting annuals. Of planting the bulbs to bloom in spring, and putting away the garden decorations. The process of ending this cycle of the garden's life. Stopping and considering where things are, and how they have fared, and might that bleeding heart look better over there, and might I move those hosta's forward, and what if I move the tiger lily that is marginal in this growth zone, but has been blooming beautifully these last five years, might then it die?

Some years ago, I was volunteering in palliative care. I sat with a particular woman, who proudly displayed pictures of her gardens, where most displayed pictures of their families. And we talked about gardens. About plants and tips and the philosophy of a garden. The last night I saw her, she told me about the garden she planned for next year - that she had planted entire beds of perennials after her diagnosis. She worked like a woman possessed at planning and planting and cultivating. She did not live to see the fruit of the vine, the work of her hands. She did not live to see green poking out of the ground in spring time, and she did not live to see the inventory all gardeners do, the survey to see what has made it through the long and cold and dark winter, and will show up for spring. She did not live to see the lush flowers of summer, she did not live to smell the last gasp of the sweet peas in late fall. She did not live in her body, but her garden, is possibly just large enough to encompass her spirit.

I did not understand what she was doing then. I merely stayed silent, asking questions about what she planted. I did not understand what she was trying to accomplish. I did not understand the space she was living in.

The smell of thyme and basil are heavy on my hands. Dirt on my knees, swatting away the yellow-jackets, and laughing at the dog who is trying to catch fall-lazy flies and still not succeeding. I am mid-way through my work, and the warmth of the day is lying to me, telling me that I have lots of time before the snow, although experience tells me that I may only have a week. I am looking at what is left to be done, trying to decide if I should work by task, moving everything that needs to be moved, planting what needs to be planted, or if I should concentrate on beds, doing all that is needed in each bed. I am counting the work against the time, and I am coming up short. And I am remembering my laughter as I planted those thyme seeds, some 4 years ago. In my need for ritual, to honour the special moments in life, I decided to plant thyme in the garden first. The statement amused me. Tickling my need for irony and relevance.

But perhaps, as I sit, for a few moments, trying to plan, knowing that I will not be in my garden next year, I will be trying to grow a baby, perhaps I am understanding the lessons of the gardener. We give our gardens as gifts to the world, a place to grow wise and feel ease, but we do not live in them as they are, we create them for our memories, a place to retreat to on winter days, and a place to dream about. Gardens, for gardeners at least, live in the province of yesterday - the plants we remember, that did not make the winter, the blooms that are larger and sweeter in our memory. And we live in the future, as we plan. Our plans are never done, indeed, most never come to be. Our gardens outlive us, become larger than we are. They become more important, more organic than we could ever be.

You see, a gardener lives in the past and in the future, but not really in the present.

Monday Miscellany


This Monday Miscellany brought to you by a person who has had very little sleep and has been counting money (None of it mine, alas) at a Casino until 2:45 am.

This person is going to bed now. She'll see you all tomorrow this afternoon.

Have a great morning without me.

Saturday's are For Quotes

A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday,
but never remembers her age.
Robert Frost

Thirty Without You

I thought I had a plan. I was going to give birth at the end of March. Which would give me a month and a bit to recover, so that I could plant a (smaller) garden. Veggies to use for baby food.

I would spend the summer outside, playing with you. We were going to the zoo, to The Carrot, Fort Edmonton Park, to the river valley for walks with the dogs. We would play. We would do some travelling with your dad, when he had to work out of town this summer. I bought a bassinet for when I gardened. It would be an idyllic year.

And then, at the end of the summer, when things turned into fall, I would see the end of this decade of my life, and welcome the next, with you by my side. I would enter my 30's as a mum. Your mum. I would be changed from a girl to a woman.

I pictured a birthday party, with you. A birthday gift, from you. I pictured your father plotting and scheming what you would buy me. You were going to be here. Last year, at work, they had cake for the birthday of the new mum. This year, it will just be cake for me, and no one remembers you. I will accept every one's wishes, their hugs, their congratulations. My oldest friends will ,perhaps, tell me how proud they are of me, and perhaps, if they are feeling particularly kind and expansive, they will tell me that I am growing into the remarkable woman I have always wanted to be - a woman who is kind and thoughtful and passionate and strong. And maybe I am. Because of you.

And I will be 30 on Saturday.

Without you.

Holy Hot Water

I come from a long line of Altar Guild women. I remain fully convinced that 5 minutes after Henry VIII created the church of England, one of my distant ancestors began tormenting a parish priest because he dripped wine. I suppose it was, ultimately, my destiny. But destiny failed me, and did not equip me with an innate knowledge of what to do with linens. There's a book. I didn't get the book. (You knew there would be a book, didn't you?)

I'm still not entirely sure how I came to join the Altar Guild. These were the women I both mocked, and I confess, was terrified of. Truly, I tell you, any sane person should be scared of these women. It is simply not normal that anyone could be that distressed over candle wax on a linen table cloth. It's frightening when it's your mother, foaming at the mouth.

And when you are the youth pastor, and you are caught between a young man who is terrified and traumatized and refusing to come to church, and a foaming mother; honestly about all you can think of to say is "Back away. Don't make eye contact."

For those that have managed to remain blissfully unaware, the Altar Guild is responsible for the care and maintenance of the church. Specifically the bit with the altar in it. They get a room, called the sacristy. They take care of the linens used on the altar(!), set out communion, arrange the flowers, change the hangings so they are the right colour at the right time (which changes more often than is entirely reasonable), and generally strike fear and terror into the lives of young men and women who are unfortunate enough to become altar assistants - the nemesis of any woman on Altar Guild. And when they come to see you, in full sail, you run. Or shove your husband in front of them.

And somehow, because these women have a club name, and they have their own room, you just knew they would have their own language. I have to take a purificator and a veil (and supposedly corporals too, but I'm getting ahead of myself.) and I have to, well, wash them and fold them. And of course if they have their own room and their own language, and everyone is scared of them, you know that we aren't talking putting them in the wash with your light-coloured load and folding them in half and calling it done.

I did what any sensible Anglican daughter does. I took a deep breath, and called the Anglican mother. Who became very distressed that I had the holy linens in the holy linen bag on my stove. I was told to put them in a plastic container with mild soap, and not to throw the water out.

I found a juice jug. And I put the holy linens, still in the holy linen bag into my orange juice jug. Where they sat until Wednesday night.

The Anglican mother arrived, under full sail, thrilled to be able to educate her 30 year old daughter. Somehow the basics of cooking and cleaning and mending escaped her, but by golly (or possibly by corporal), she was going to show me what to do with the holy linens.

We both experienced a let down, when she pulled out the holy linens, which were still in the holy bag out of the now holy juice jug (as it turns out the bag isn't holy, it's just a bag). That was the first time she called me by all three of my first names.

And then we had to wash them. Which means rinsing them three times. Apparently there is a trinity of laundry. Who knew? And when you have holy linens and a not-so holy bag, and a holy juice jug, you get holy water. I was dispatched to water the mum's on the front porch with the holy water. I guess I have holy mum's now too.

I came back in to a question. All three full names and my maiden name. It probably didn't help that I looked at her blankly. After all, there are the thingies that go over the chalice, and the whatchamacallit that goes over the reserve sacrament, and there is the cardboard covered in linen bit, which is called a pall, but is not to be confused by the large cloth that goes over the casket, which is also called a pall. And there is the coloured stuff that drives me crazy and strikes fear in my heart when I realize I have to change colours. There's a lot of coloured stuff, and it is all over the church. But she wanted to know where the corporals were? And there should be three? (Surprise, I know). And I didn't know what a corporal was?

She described it. We hit all five names, three given, one maiden, and one married, when I told her that those were still clean, so I popped them (reverently, honest, I swear, really) back in the cupboard of the scary room err, sacristy. Apparently my attempts at preserving the (not-so) holy bag and the creation of a holy juice jug were not enough to save me from not. washing. something. that. had. been. used. on. the. ALTAR.

And we washed, and then I got the holy? iron, and the holy? ironing board. And I learned to iron and fold. There is, in case you were interested, trinity of ironing too (You're surprised, right?). We iron one side. Flip to iron the other. At this point the holy linens have approached the texture of holy cardboard, and the holy iron is making holy flatulent sounds. The sound of the iron made my mother use all my names, again. I may be getting another iron for my birthday, which is great, except that I'm not sure what I do with the old holy? iron. . .

I have the holy linens, folded in three(!) and ironed for a third time and they are straight (I hauled out the blocking yardstick to make sure - thanks Kuri!) the not-so holy bag (also ironed, just in case?), the holy juice jug(can I de-consecrate this, do you think?) the holy mums, the holy iron, the holy ironing board, and a holy Safeway bag I put the holy linens in.

I'm just not so sure I'm cut out for this level of holiness.

Wednesday's are for Grammar (What Makes a Sentence)

Last Week's Homework:
Your assignment was to write me a sentence that completely violated all of the correct rules of capitalization. I really enjoyed reading your sentences. You made me laugh out loud!

Those who get to post the good grammar button:


Alice
Julia S
Carmen
LoriBeth
JamieD







And the Shiny Red Pencil for Keeners:
Ahh, this was a hard decision.

Should I give it to Alice, who rhymes. . .
Julia S, who can totally use some love.
Carmen who is new. . .
LoriBeth, who has the same rant about capitalization that I do. .

or

Martha, who not only did her homework, but has bribed the teacher with chocolate. She's kind of a floozy that way (The teacher not Martha).

A stern reminder: Your grammar button is only good for one week. Keep the button up longer and your broccoli will grow roots and fraternize with your potatoes, strange little fish will come to inhabit your toilet bowl and your car will only make left turns. Honest.

This Week's Lesson:
Ahh, dear readers, what makes a sentence? A capital letter at one end, and a period at the other?
No.
A million times no.
Absolutely Not!

Now, all of you will have read the entry on subjects and predicates, no? What do you mean you haven't? Well, go read it.
Now, do try to keep up.

So, you will remember that all sentences have a subject and a predicate. What else can we say about a sentence: It should be able to stand alone.
What happens when we have sentences that can't stand alone? We have a sentence fragment.

Test Number 1
Want a quick test? Ask yourself, does this sentence have a verb and a subject? Very often when we read a fragment, we are left reading the sentence, saying "and. . .?" Consider the following sentence.

The purple knitting needles.

Well, what about them? It's great that there are purple knitting needles, but we don't have them doing anything, they are lacking a verb. Alternatively, we could have this sentence:

Knitting really fast.

Notice anything? That's right. No subject.
No subject = no Sentence.

Test Number 2:
One final test - does the sentence start with a dependent clause:
  • After
  • although
  • as
  • because
  • before
  • even though
  • if
  • since
  • though
  • unless
  • until
  • when
  • whenever
  • where
  • wherever

Your Homework:
See if you can find me an example of a sentence fragment that is masquerading as a sentence.

Praise (6x6 Meme)

Give thanks to the Lord
For He is good
His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord
Yes, it's my bound duty. It's my obligation. It's what the created does to the creator. I have learned, in these vast and long and pain filled 9 months to give thanks in all circumstances. And it is not always hard. It is not hard to see His great mercy, His loving kindness and give thanks.

For His love endures forever
"What is man that you are mindful of him. The son of man that you care for him?" Psalm 8:4.
Yes, long before I was in this world, God was. Long after I leave it, He will still be here. He is larger than I am. He is mindful of me.

Oh, yes. I missed one.
For He is good.


My mind was racing, my heart was breaking, tears and sobbing through the music - I missed my Gabriel particularly on Sunday. There were oh so many children, and I missed my son.

I was thinking of the nature of gratitude and joy. The Assistant Parish Priest sat in front of me. Except that she's not the parish priest, she's on parental leave for the next 32 weeks. And the twins were sitting in front of me too. Sweet, wonderful (and totally overwhelmed!) little boys. Which got me thinking about how God changes, in response to our situations. Or, perhaps more accurately, how we may change our view of God, in response to the situation.

I thought of the joy of heaven. And I thought of immense joy I have known. Joy that made me understand the notion of Luke 6 - when it talks about abundance - measures pressed down and still spilling out. And I thought about sorrow - the feeling that all joy had been taken from the world. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. (Psalm 6:8) And I thought of how we are not good at mingling joy and sorrow.

We are a backwards, slow thinking people. Or at least I am. Perhaps all of you are more with it. I can only hold one idea of God in my mind, at one time. Either He is kind and merciful and loving and gracious, or He is wild and unpredictable and cunning, or He is judging and stern and distant and perfect.

Shortly after Gabriel's death, I started re-reading the Old Testament. In the midst of being lost and broken - life in the foxhole - I decided to pick up the pieces of my life, at the beginning. Which really is a dreadful place to begin reading about God. Let me tell you: the not dirty - but uncomfortable - secret of Christianity. The God of the Old Testament, He appears vastly unpredictable. Wildly irrational. He seems absolutely arbitrary. He is a level of arbitrary that would make the world's dictators blush. He makes no sense. None. Even knowing how the story of the Old Testament will "end", so to speak, I still can't make heads or tails of this God. Intervening sometimes, seeming to hide His face others. He's certainly not a God that I am comfortable with. This OT Jehovah, this Yaweh, who says his name is "I AM", I am not ok with Him. He's not cozy. I'm not quite sure how He works.

Now, the wise among you will notice that there is still a sentence outstanding. For He is good. For my faith to be true, for it to be real, for it to have survived, I must be able to say this: In all things, in spite of all things, all seeming evidence to the contrary, I must be able to hold up my head, and proclaim that God is still good. Which seems a hard thing, in light of the whole dead baby thing.

I am learning this. That God is not good. Or, perhaps more accurately, God is not merely good. He is God. And that means that His actions, His ways, His thoughts, they are not the same as mine. And He is not comfortable. He's wild and unpredictable. The Old Testament, with a God who is distant, withdrawn, arbitrary, He is different than the God of the New Testament. Jehovah is the same Abba, even if I perceive him differently.

My faith is wider, deeper, broader. It has known joy, and it has know sorrow, and it has known them in the same moments. The Lord of joy and the Lord of sorrow, the Lord of dance, the Lord of the dirge, the Lord I thanked for my pregnancy, the Lord I baptised my son to, the Lord I asked to acknowledge a sheep of his own flock, a sinner of His own redeeming at my son's funeral. The Lord who heard the agony filled whimpers calling out that it hurts, He is the same Lord. I just never knew him in all those faces. I never knew he could look so many ways.

I can say that God is good. But it seems paltry and small to leave it at that.

Monday Miscellany

  • Mr. Max is still gone. In the way of the world, it may be that two cats will find their way to our house, via a co-worker. I've never really had to go searching for a pet, it seems they always find me, and it's meant to be.
  • The non-smoking is going ok, or something approaching a living hell, depending on the day moment. Add AF's visit, and I am maybe not the happiest of campers.
  • I made myself these. Because I have the attention span of a fungus gnat, especially late at night when I'm trying to pray for people. I do it, but my attention flits.
  • Speaking of flitting attention span, yoga started up last week. Must remind myself, it is not a competition. But good grief, I hate those skinny little things that show up in their tiny little outfits, while I'm in a pair of cut off yoga pants and Mr. Spit's blue t-shirt. (Hey sweetie, I borrowed your t-shirt, hope that's ok.)
  • 5 days until my birthday. I'd throw myself a party, but with the reno's, I really have no house, and besides. I had to throw myself my own party for my 21st, I'm not doing it for my 30th. I'd probably just look pathetic.
  • Help. My pharmacist has confused me. . . She gave me this great long explanation about when I can take chlomid (silly me for asking). I stop taking my birth control pill, and the next day is Cycle Day 1, correct?

Worst Fears

Mr. Spit travels pretty extensively. Some people go to Paris and Rome, Mr. Spit spends his time in High Level and Grimshaw. Towns that are small and lonely and, well, grim.

Mr. Spit has a company truck, he's put 120K on it, in just under 3 years. He hangs off bridges to inspect them, walks on ice that could be rotten, crawls through culverts that may be to small. I worry. I'm sure I'm not the only one. I'm sure that I am not the only wife who worries about a husband far away, a husband who does not come home each night, a husband who lives with more risk than in an office. Prayers for Mr. Spit's safekeeping, that he would pay attention, not be hurt while driving, or on site, or any where, while he is away from me, they are never very far from my thoughts.

The situation started last night. Mr. Spit is home for the weekend, and he answered the phone. It was his boss, asking if he had spoken to Engineer A. It seems engineer A was missing. He had been speaking to his wife, while driving home from his construction site an hour outside of Edson. I think he was on his way home to her.

They have just recently moved to this province, so that he could take this new job. He has spent the late spring and summer away from her. And I must confess, I have thought of his wife often, knowing how much of an adjustment it is when your husband is not home, when you have to be both mum and dad, when the moving and finding a place and unpacking falls to you, while you are all alone. I have spent many nights very tired and wondering how I would get through the next day. I speak the language, know the city I live in, and I do not have a toddler running around. I am not 8 weeks pregnant. I have wondered how she was doing. I have thought about calling. She lives 2 hours from me, and 4 hours from her husband, and there really wasn't anything that I could do for her, other than to tell her that you get used to this, and it gets easier, if not better. That you call every night, and you always say good-bye, and that you do the best you can at loving each other, under difficult circumstances.

She was talking to him on the phone, probably making plans, probably telling him how much she missed him, and he seemed to be confused and disorientated, and then she could hear him breathing, and then he was gone. Repeated phone calls yielded only a busy signal.

The RCMP, the staff from the office, the contractor, the dogs, search and rescue, they started looking for him. They found him late last night. Certainly the road was very bad, and maybe he was travelling too quickly, might have been tired. A lot on his mind.

I suppose it doesn't matter. I'm sure the company will see the final report from the RCMP. They found him last night, and medi-vaced him to Edmonton. Mr. Spit's manager called again this afternoon. He was gone, hurt too badly to live.

A wife, a three year old little girl, and a baby on the way. They have no family here. She barely speaks English, and both of our worst fears came true this afternoon. The unspoken worry in the back of our minds, because he is not here, and we can't watch him, and the world is a large place and there are blind corners on bad roads, and sometimes when you are tired because you have already worked 60 hours by Thursday, sometimes you just don't pay attention.

Memento Mori.

Weekends Are For Quotes

One of the penalties for refusing to participate
in politics is that you end up
being governed by your inferiors.
Plato
(Supposedly. I can't find my texts to confirm)

Smart

It is election season, on both sides of the border. As I sit here typing this, I am looking at a McLean's magazine, with a picture of Stephen Harper(1) holding a baby, and CBC is promising me wall to wall election coverage for the next 30 odd days, and my local NDP candidate(2) is calling wanting to know if they can have my volunteer hours, give me a lawn sign, have my vote, and please, more than anything, send money(3). And I read a really interesting article in Time Magazine about your man Barack.

Anyway. So, I'm thinking about the West Wing. Which I have been watching as I knit for the Parish Priest's children. And specifically I'm thinking about a quote from Toby Zeigler.

"Make this election about smart, and stupid. Engaged and not. Qualified and not."

And I stood up and cheered. I stood up, and I honest-to-goodness pumped my fist, and said "YES!!".

Because it's true. Read it again. I say over and over, we get the politicians we deserve.

There are big problems on our continent. Both sides of the border. Our world is heating up. We are in wars in the Middle East. America is in a recession, and when the US sneezes, Canada catches a cold. China owns 1/3 of US Debt. Alberta has no debt, but we have Tar Sands, dead ducks and all. The US has huge racial problems. We are killing each other in our streets, and your young African and Latino men are dying at disproportionately high rates, in Iraq. And lest we in Canada become smug, the life expectancy of a white man is 71.1. It's 63 if you are an aboriginal man. Canada ranks number one on the UN index of places to live, unless you live on a Federal reserve, in which case it ranks 63, smack dab in the middle of third world countries. The Hobema reserve and Bangladesh. Your women and children are dying in hospital emergency rooms, because they have no health insurance. 10% of our population lives below the low income cut off line(4). 12% of Americans do so.

These are big problems. Big. And we need smart people to solve them. And there is this tendency in modern politics - Toby Zeigler hit it on the head. We, the voting populace demand that our politicians are just like us. They have to be the guy (or girl) next door. We would want to have a beer with them. Pound them on the back at a football game. They need to be the common guy. The ordinary guy. We don't make our elections about smart, qualified and engaged. We make them about hairdo's and the religious right and abortion and homosexuality and embryonic stem cells and welfare. We make them about who went to church where, and what their pastor might have said, and if their daughter is pregnant.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm looking at my neighbours. And they are nice people, good people. I'm looking at me. I'm smart (mostly), but I don't know what the hell we should do about global warming and racial tensions and how to fix the reserve system or war in the middle east or somehow get all Americans health care, that they can afford. I don't know. And my neighbours, they don't know either. But I do know this, there are smart people who know. And maybe we should elect them to office. Let's stop making elections about popularity contests, and start making them about smart people who can fix our problems. People that we can send to Ottawa and Washington, and let them make a difference. I don't care about your family, your religious affiliation, your work history, but can I see an IQ test please.

I have watched Sarah Palin with interest. Fascination and horror. In some sense, I'm excited to see a woman run for high constitutional office. (We've already had one.) I'd rather have seen one for President.

And then she opened her mouth. She was the first woman to be Governor of Alaska, and the youngest governor. A two term councillor and a 1 term mayor. (and in case you are wondering, city politics are the most brutal out there. The most vicious form of retail politics there is). But she didn't talk about what she did, or how smart she was or the ideas she has. I watched the speech, and I left with a sick feeling in my mouth. Who was this woman?

I don't like her politics. But I'll stand up and say that she's worked hard and she's had a few good ideas. Yet, all she could tell us about herself was that she was a hockey mom. She defaults to harmless, stupid hockey mum. You got yourself a crossing guard with a spiffy uniform and a new hair-do.(5) Seemingly no ideas, no thoughts, no plans. A lovely family. A hockey mum who doesn't think ideas are important is campaigning to run your country. She spent more time insulting the other guy, than she did talking about herself. The news cycle is more consumed with wedding plans for a 15 year old child, than they are about recessions and welfare and health care.

Now, whether you like Sarah Palin or not, whether you think you might vote for her or not, think about how we characterize our candidates. Perhaps more than that - think about how they characterize themselves.

We all have to go to the polls soon enough.

Make the election about smart. And not.
And engaged, and not.
And qualified, and not.


*******
(1) Our present (sigh) Prime Minister.
(2) New Democratic Party. I'm not sure how you go from being a red tory to being an NDP-er. I blame Kuri. Totally.
(3) I do donate to candidates. Women Candidates. My volunteer hours are non gender specific. One of these days I'll write a blog all about how women face specific barriers to running for office.
(4) The LICO is a different measure than the poverty line, actually higher than the poverty line, so Canada has a higher level of "poor" just because we say you are still poor at a higher income than most countries.
(5) You have no idea how badly I would like to take this name for myself. Alas, I must give credit to Heather Mallick

Going off the weed

I have had a long standing relationship with DuMaurier. Longer than my marriage, longer than all my present friendships, longer than my relationship with hair colour. DuMaurier, you might say, is one of my oldest companions.

I have been smoking for over half my life. I know, it boggles the mind. Especially because I don't look like the type of person that smokes. I know I must not look like this person, because frequently people tell me so. In an incredulous tone of voice, with a look of wonder about them, they say "You smoke? I would have never guessed it about you".

And I'm never quite sure what to tell them. You see, I can't tell them why I started. I could, I suppose, point to a cousin who smoked. I could perhaps tell them I thought it was cool. I could have pointed to a teacher who assured me I would start. (In grade 6. His confidence was touching). I could point to my mother, who was a smoker for many years.

I could point to all of these things. I could tell you I started because of them. I could place blame, but really, why? The fact remains, I don't know why I started to smoke.

But, oh, I know why I kept it up. It was my one, tiny rebellion, in a life of conformity. It was my out. A thing I did for me. It was a throw back to, what I jokingly call 'signs of a misspent youth', along with my intimate knowledge of the smells of several illicit street drugs, and still early morning air, as you wonder if you will get arrested.

It is my connection with someone I used to be. And I am not that person anymore. I have no desire to be that person. Indeed, I am the person phoning the police at 3 am, knowing full well what those children are doing outside my home. And knowing, that indeed, they are but children, in the bodies of adults, thinking they are adults, with the minds of scared, confused adolescents. It is perhaps a vice that suggests that yes, I survived this too.

And I loved smoking. I loved the act of pulling a cigarette out of a new pack - my constant companion for the next two or so days. I loved lighting cigarettes, waving them around, exhaling, the feel of cigarette smoke entering my lungs. It was a pleasant burn. (The cough and the tightness in my chest each morning seemed but a small price to pay)

And I quit last March. With very little fanfare, and to be honest, very little pain. A few weeks of withdrawal. I quit to move on to another phase in my life - that of parent. I did not want to be that mother who smoked. And I appreciated the freedom, and in an age of $10 a package cigarettes, I appreciated the extra money. In an age where smokers are the very devil themselves, I appreciated the lack of hassle. On minus 40 days, I didn't mind not being out there. On days when it rained, on blazing hot days, I didn't mind. The interesting thing was, I didn't miss it. I had a plan, I was on a roll. I actually quit about 3 months before I had to. Unfortunately, I'm about 3 weeks past when I needed to quit, this time.

I contemplated picking it up again the day I came home from the hospital without Gabriel. But I persevered. I could still see myself as a parent, someday. Perhaps I actually saw myself of a parent, albeit one of an urn.

I managed until the day I met with the Chief of Perinatology, to discuss Gabriel's pathology report. And I cannot say that she was so cruel, she drove me to it. She was, in fact, compassion itself. I suppose I could point to the onslaught of Mother's Day, Father's Day, the 6 month anniversary, the friend who had the brand new baby. But really, that wasn't it.

I came out of the Royal Alex, and I lost my perception of being a parent, ever again. I can no longer believe that a baby will emerge from me, other than still, already gone. I cannot believe, in the face of the risk of recurrence, I cannot believe that smoking will matter. What difference can it possibly make if I smoke or not, when my body seems destined to kill my babies? When my pregnancy will be spent waiting for the pre-eclampsia cascade to start again.

I am off the weed again. I already miss it.

Home

So, when a casual acquaintance shows up on your front porch, and asks if she can have some water for her dog - she'll go wait in the school yard, she doesn't want to be a bother - while she waits for the city police to serve the restraining order on her husband, I think about the only thing you can do is fill the water bowl and make her a cup of coffee. Loan her some shoes and a jacket. Hold her hand and listen. Tell her you are proud of her for doing this brave and terrifying thing. Tell her that you believe in her. Wish to God that you had known before, wondering if you had stepped in sooner, wondering if you had done more than wave as you went past her yard, wondering if you had made time in your busyness.

And when you listen to her talk to her mother, and you hear a mother tell her daughter to just come home, you get, in that moment, in that place, a sense of what God is and what He has spent all of eternity trying to tell me. You get a sense of how slow of a learner that you really are, and how terribly simple it really is.

Some years ago, when I left boarding school to go to University, the Dean of Women, who became a dear friend, asked what I needed to move on to this next phase of my life. And I didn't have to think long. I needed a place, that no matter what, I could return too, if only for a few hours, and call home. A place to retreat to when I failed, and a place to return to when I succeeded, to have those around me cheer - not because of what I did or did not do, but because they loved me, and when you love someone, you cheer. A place for when I was discouraged and defeated, a place for when I didn't know which way was up, a place that always had heart room for me, because I was me, and they loved me. A place of good memories, and bad, that represented the core of who I was.

The school closed 7 years ago, the land and buildings were sold. My home, such as it was, is gone. But I return to it in my memories, in photographs. I am learning: there is a small corner of my heart called Lucy Baker, and I carry it, and the lessons I learned there, in my heart. About hope and caring and compassion, and how to create a community. I could phone the Dean tonight and ask what to do next, but it is late, and I am tired. And I can hear her voice in the home section of my heart. Stop by tomorrow. Hold her hand. Let her fight her battles, but hold her up when you can. Pray.

Compassion, mercy and practicality are what I learned. To make a cup of coffee, and to hold a hand, and drive someone to the police station to figure out if the restraining order has been served. To feed someone dinner. To walk into the house with them, figure out about getting the locks changed. Compassion and mercy. Holding a set of shoulders tightly, and dialing the locksmith.

Mr. Spit has never raised his hand to me. I have never known anything other than his love and care and concern. I am treasured, cherished, adored. I have never known other than the love of a kind, gentle loving, Godly man. I have never had a moment to doubt his love for me. I am blessed and fortunate and loved, and every good kind of adjective. I missed his phone call tonight, and I dearly wanted to say I love you. To thank him for the many ways he loves me and shows he loves me. To tell him how thankful I am for him in my life.

Lessons from home that I carry in my heart. That we are a community, and we live and die and rise and fall and wax and wane with all of us. Those that succeed and those that fail. And because I am succeeding today, does not mean that I will not fail tomorrow. Because I am resilient today, does not mean I won't fall down tomorrow. That no one is a complete success, and no one is a complete failure, and we all both need and deserve love and compassion. And this, the glimpse of God that I got tonight, in the midst of a garbage dump of a situation.

No matter where you are, no matter what is happening, no matter, God always welcomes us home.

No Grammar today, I didn't get the post done. Sorry about that. Next Wednesday.

Mum Didn't Raise an Idiot

The words lipstick on a pig have been bandied about a lot lately. . . .

Anyway.

The scene:

My kitchen table. My mum is over for coffee. I'm still knitting a mitten for my parish priest's new wee one (3 hours per mitten, times 4 mittens = are we done knitting mittens yet?)

She looks at me over her coffee. "What are you knitting X and Y for their baby?"

Me: Trying to manipulate 3 skeins of yarn (fair isle knitting) and 4 double pointed needles. "Nope"

Mother: "Pardon?"

Me: Looking perhaps, a tiny bit exasperated, wondering what round I'm on.

"Nothing. I'm not knitting anything"

Mother: "Oh, is it because of *insert long, drawn out drama here, that is totally a waste of time*. Because you've knit for all the other children."

Me: Ripping back. The row was supposed to be green, not blue. "I'm not knitting for them. I'll pick up something from somewhere. Probably diapers or something."

Mother: "Why?"

And I put my knitting down on the kitchen table. I looked over my glasses (progressives, we can likely blame really tiny lace knitting for this.) And I thought.

I thought about why I'm not knitting for this baby. It's not that I'm not glad they are having another baby. It's not the whole dead baby thing, I've knit for other babies since Gabriel. It's not the present long, drawn out drama and their unkindness.

"You didn't raise an idiot."

The very first blanket (I wrote about it here) I knit for these parents, I ran across it a year ago. Thrown in a corner, covered in dirt. The mother looked at me, as I went to go and rescue 150 hours of my time, and said that it was nice to have a spare blanket at the cabin.

Now, let me let you into a secret about knitting for babies. They do unspeakable things to hand knits. Truly. And I am a knitter who has been known to knit a baby a sweater made of a cashmere-merino blend. I don't expect projects for children to live behind glass. Nothing, nothing gives me greater joy than to see people wear things I've knit for them. And when unspeakable bodily fluids wind up on $80 worth of cashmerino? Oh well.

And this blanket? It was my first big project. And folks, let me tell you, there's a reason I'm nice to people about their first big project. I think I had knit a few dish clothes and a scarf before this blanket. The dishcloths have long since been shredded, and, well, the scarf has never seen the light of day. The blanket was ok.

I looked at it that day, and noted that my tension is much more even, I have fewer dropped stitches, I have become much more proficient in my craft.

But, that didn't change anything. This blanket was knit out of heartbreak and sorrow, and a wish to send joy. And, to put it mildly, it didn't seem to be very valued.

I learned something that day.

My time, my craft, they are worth something. I am not "just a knitter". The time, the cost, the quest for perfection that I put into gift's for others, they are worth something. My gift, it is one of love, and it's worth something. 150 hours, it's worth something.

I am putting down my foot. (or possibly my size 16 knitting needle).

I'm not knitting for those who don't appreciate it.

Mum didn't raise an idiot.

Monday Miscellany

  • Maggie has forgiven me. I bypassed the bacon for rollover, which surely must be the food of the gods for my dogs. I have re-entered her good graces.
  • Still no word on Max.
  • My fridge does still smell, but it's better. I have a box of baking soda, a bowl of baking soda, and I tried the febreeze thing. . . .
  • Mr. Spit is out of town. My dinner tonight? Mashed potato's. Instant mashed potatoes. I am pathetic.
  • I see that iTunes has changed their stupid program again. Just when I get used to things. And another stupid End User Agreement Licence that I should read. . . (and won't. I don't think Steve Jobs wants my dogs or my house)
  • I am presently stuck on level five of Super Paper Mario (finding flopside, for those who are interested.) I seem to be unable to follow the directions of a five year old.
  • I am currently addicted to this song. It's a bit embarrassing.
  • I'll have pictures of the knitting project for my Parish Priest's adopted twins. They were supposed to be coming home in October. They get home next Saturday. Everyone at church was cheering except me. I was muttering under my breath and trying to figure out how to get 2 hats, 2 scarves, and 4 mittens knit. I'm doing not badly, 2 hats, 2 mittens and 1 scarf. . .
  • Now excuse me. I've learned that terribly unfortunately the laundry doesn't fold itself. (Oh please, would someone buy me a house elf for my birthday)

Whinge-For-All Thursday Winner!

Is . . .

*insert drum roll here*

ALICIA

And honestly, this isn't a fix. The random number generator said 6. . . .

And she was number 6.

Just because she saw the scarf while I was working on it. . . .

Alicia, send me an email with your address, and I'll mail your scarf (or maybe we can meet 1/2 way in Red Deer, and I can touch your belly and say hi to Twinkle?)

Weekend Are For Quotes

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace.
And your best days are never so good that your beyond the need for God's grace.
Amen.
I will post the Whinge-For-All winner later today. We have obviously run into a glitch with the drawing process, now that the cat is not available to do it.

Maggie Doesn't Like Me

Early this morning, we left Delta in her kennel (all alone) and went to the vet. Things were going swimmingly. The vet tech made a fuss over her, rubbed her belly and gave her scratches.




She went off quite willingly. Didn't even look back at me.



I went to get her. Reviewed the x-rays with the Vet. (3 teeth need to be extracted. One is a good candidate for a root canal). No, you don't want to know what this is going to cost.

They brought her out. Limping where the IV line was.

She wouldn't even look at me. Was not the slightest bit pleased to see me.

I go into a room, she leaves it.

I gave her a small dinner tonight, not wanting to overload her tummy after the anaesthetic.

She's disgusted.

She's presently looking out the door window, wondering when Daddy, Nanna or *anyone* will come and rescue her from this mean, evil mum. Someone, would you please come rescue my much loved dog buddy, who just doesn't like me at all. Would you please tell her that this is for her own good, and she will feel much better afterwards. Honestly?






I'm not getting any of these tonight.

It's a hard thing when your buddy doesn't like you.

Umm

Umm.

Super Sexy shoes.

Oh,

You have no idea.

None

Of how bad my back hurts.

No,

Not my feet.

Not my legs.

Not even my knees.

Nope, lower back.

Excuse me.

I'm going to skip my blog post.

(where are those Epsom salts?)

The bath is running.

I'm going to get in now.

Have a great day.

In low-heeled shoes.

Abide

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

September 1, 1939
WH Auden
From "Another Time"
Published by Random House, 1940

Wendesday's are for Grammar (Capitalization)

Last Week's Homework:
Here are the corrected sentences. (The misspelling of grammarian was my mistake. As was the bizarre apostrophe in Mrs. Spit. Not sure where my brain was, sorry.)

There is a challenge in talking about grammar, and the way that people use it badly; one must make some sort of judgment about the person, who is, or is not using standard grammar. We necessarily make some sort of judgment about their intelligence, and possibly, their social standing. I prefer to assume that those who use poor grammar are ignorant, in the classical sense of the world. Not meaning rude or primitive, but unschooled, not knowing better. I am sure that they would like to do better.

The other challenge with English grammar is that standards of correctness vary. From time and country to the text book or style manual that you use. In my professional life, our style guide for writing often requires me to stretch the bounds of good English, to almost a breaking point. I have seen some awful mistakes and really bad wording.

Many of you have emailed me, from time to time, to ask me a particular grammar question. And I'm always happy to give answers. Really. But, sometimes, the questions are grey - it really is a matter of preference, or what country you live in. What Sam in the UK would find appalling, we would find quite normal. Sometimes you have to lay your expectations down.

So, with those provisos, I offer Mrs. Spit’s Grammarian Guide to Making Yourself Sound all Intelligent-like and making fewer mistakes.

Those who Get to Post The Coveted Button

JamieD
Heather
Martha
Excavator
Mr. Spit (Who is a first time participant, also!)
Geohede
Sweet Camden Lass
Beth
Dreams Come True


And today, Ladies (and gentleman!) We announce a new, special prize. Especially for keeners, those that go above and beyond the homework, find silly mistakes of mine, charm me with compliments, or type such an amusing answer, I can't help but laugh.

Ladies (and gentleman!), may I pronounce, The Shiny Red Pencil, For Keeners.

This week, we are giving the award to Schlup. Who did not actually do the homework, but did point out that I used a grocer's apostrophe in provisos. We all remember that grocer's apostrophes are bad, don't we now?
A firm reminder, buttons are only good for one week. Keep it on your blog longer, and your finger nails will turn black, your toilet will fill with blue goo, and your car tires will turn to mush.

This Week's Lesson: Capitalization
I must confess, this lesson was supposed to be about what a complete sentence is, but as I was meeting an old friend for a cup of tea, I came across a sign with the most random of capitalization. It truly irked me. Alas, it was behind glass, so I couldn't haul out my trusty red sharpie, and begin correcting.

Here's when we capitalize:

1. The first word of a sentence

Mrs. Spit is not a fan of random capitalization.

2. Items in a list, where each item makes a complete sentence.
There were three reasons for Mrs. Spit's knitting failure. (1) She picked a pattern with a number of errors. (2) She lost her knitting needles. (3) Mr. Spit continually bothered her to go play Wii tennis.

We would NOT capitalize the following list, because the items in the list are not complete sentences

Mrs. Spit bought wool, knitting needles and a pattern.

3. Capitalize the first letter of a quotation.
Capitalize the letter even if the words preceding the quote don't make a complete sentence. Do not capitalize the remainder of the quote, if you have broken it up in the sentence.
"Dear", Mr. Spit said, "we noticed that you have bought more wool?".

4. Capitalize the pronoun I.
I cannot tell you how obnoxious it is when people do not do this. I might perhaps accept it from a 12 year old girl, it is completely unacceptable in adults, and renders your writing to be illegible gibberish. Readers are trained to expect certain words to be capitalized. Play along with society's expectations in this case.

Dear Reader, do I really need to give you an example of this?

5. Capitalize proper nouns and proper adjectives.
Proper nouns are a specific person, place or thing - they are not at all general classes. Place names, people's names, that sort of thing. So, you wouldn't capitalize the word cat, but you would capitalize your cat's name.

Proper adjectives are derived from proper nouns. For example, a Japan is a proper noun, and Japanese literature, where the literature is the noun, and the adjective Japanese tells us about a particular type of literature, it describes the literature. Trademarks are also considered to be proper adjectives.

Mrs. Spit only buys Primo spaghetti sauce, Guiness beer and Scotty paper towels.

Proviso: Some brand names like Kleenex, Band-aids, Post-it Notes and the like have become so common place, that we don't use the capitalization for them, because they don't necessarily refer to a particular brand of goods, but refer to an entire class of goods. This makes them just an ordinary adjective. Yes, I know, the makers of the goods likely don't like this rule, but there you have it.

6. The random capitalization for effect.
Ah, Dear Reader, this gets confusing. Mrs. Spit has no problems with using grammar for style. She's actually quite a fan. But, there's a difference between style and not knowing what you are doing. Do this insensibly and you will look like a pretentious git. Here are her rules to try to bring some order to the unordered.
- Be consistent. If you are going to capitalize a word in a piece of writing that would not usually be capitalized, do so consistently in the entire piece of writing.

- Use this sparingly. There's nothing worse than seeing higgledy-piggledy capitalization. Perhaps it would help if you imagined a reader moving their eyes along the screen. When they come to a capitalized item, their head moves upward. Now dear reader, I want you to imagine what it would look like if their head was bobbing up and down. Yes Dear Reader, you get the picture.
- Do not, under any circumstances, randomly capitalize prepositions or conjunctions. I assure you, Dear Reader, there is no reason to give particular importance to the words "of" or "to" or "and".

Your Homework:
Write me a sentence that utterly violates every rule of capitalization.

Huh

Excuse me . . . .

Is it Friday?


Are you sure?

Can you check your calendar again?

Really?







Well, what about Thursday? Could it be Thursday?


No?

You're sure?

Honest?

sigh . . .

Ok.





I'll cope.

I will



Really.

I just bought these.







Friendly reminder:

Whinge-For-All Thurs ends tomorrow at midnight. There's a prize.

Yep, ends tomorrow. Whatever day tomorrow is.

Max

So, I should tell you the story of how Max came to live with us.

We were at Rona, buying the wood for our deck. And, ahead of us, in line, there was a woman with a dog. And I went to pet the dog, and she told me she needed a new home for a kitten her daughter had just brought home.

And somehow, without knowing quite what happened, Mr. Spit and I came home from the hardware store with a kitten. All of 3 pounds of inky blackness, he fit in Delta's bowl. We called him Maximus, he was large in spirit, if not in body, at least at the time. And for the first bit, he was a snugly cat. Honest. He purred, he cuddled, he liked to be held.

And, gradually, in the way of cats, and black cats in particular, he grew into his personality. As he gained weight, he gained attitude.

This culminated in his first vet visit, when I wrote a note of apology to the vet. Surely, thought I, it was only because he was surprised that he drew blood from the vet and I.

This became a recurring theme with Max. Max became the cat that everyone was puzzled we kept. He grumpy and touchy and just plain mean. He didn't like people, and he didn't like us. But if every living thing must love another, he loved Delta. She carried him in her mouth as a kitten. He groomed her face, slept curled up with her.

We began, Mr. Spit and I, to refer to ourselves as humans. "Human", we would imagine him saying, "Let me in, let me out. Too bad, I'm on the chair now."

And he would tolerate attention, if only in small doses, and in particular ways. He liked me to scratch between his shoulder blades, he would wait as you finished off the milk, because he knew you would give him the cap. And he would play a peculiar form of feline hockey, dropping the cap at your feet, and waiting for you to punt it back to him, as he waited down the hallway.

He would chair surf as a kitten, running from the front door, pounding his way down the hall, to land on the wheeled chair, and go sailing across the floor. I think there were bonus points if he hit one of the dogs, or a human in the process.

No, Max wasn't cuddly. And he didn't give you any warning. One second he was tolerating your petting, and the next he was biting your hand.

So, no, Max wasn't a friendly cat. You didn't call him kitty. I would tell him he was a handsome boy, and he would look at me with disgust. No, I must be honest, disgust and disdain were Max's natural looks. He simply didn't do cute.

He went out, as he usually did on Sunday. And we became concerned, when he did not show up for dinner, belligerent because he was hungry, on Sunday night. And, it was with a sinking heart that I checked the front door and the kitchen window this morning, and there was no angry cat waiting for me.

He does not travel far from us. To the neighbours on the left, to be fed chicken, and a few doors down to visit on the front porch with the two old tom's that live there. They sit on the front porch, looking for all the world like old men at a feed store, with a toothpick in their mouth, wearing flannel shirts with suspenders, and old ball caps. And they wait for the cat nip. But always home for dinner.

I called the city pound this morning, and there was a black cat there, picked up far-ish away from our house, but certainly not outside of the realm of a determined cat with a chip on his shoulder.

Mr. Spit wondered if Max would travel so far out of his range, but he and I remained convinced that this was, indeed, our cat, when the lady on the phone told us they couldn't check for a tattoo, because he had bitten the tech. "Aha. That's our boy", we said.

And so I left work early, to go and bail my cat out of jail. Laughing that only my cat would bite the hand that is rescuing him.

Except, it wasn't our cat.

And I drove home, tears filling my eyes. I walked into the back yard and caught a flash of fur. But, it was not a sleek black cat, looking angry at the world. It was a small grey male.

And I knew, with the sinking heart of a pet owner, of a pet lover, who has given her heart to 16 pounds of black menace, that Max is gone. There is no place so far, that he would not have come to defend his back yard from intruders.

And I know, with my heart heavy, that my cat is gone. And in my imaginings I can hear his strident yowls, his demands to be in or out, his wondering screech when he was on a different floor than me. And I will look for his face to come around my bedroom door tonight, and I will wait to play the game of "catch the hand". And I will look at my newel post when I come in the house, at least for a while, waiting to catch sight of a black cat, looking at me as I unlock the door.

And I hope, and I pray, that someone, somewhere, finds his remains. And calls the city. Because I would like to say good-bye. I would like to tell him that he wasn't the greatest cat, but he was ours, and we gave him heart room, and care and concern. And he was loved.

And, I will once again reflect on the joy and the pain of giving another living being heart room. And I will acknowledge, amidst the hurt, that my heart is bigger, better and more full for the animals that have graced my life.

Monday Miscellany

  • Well, Mr. Spit leaves for forever and three days (ok, probably not that long). But, he will be home for my birthday this year. Which is exciting and happy and shiny, because it hasn't happened in 4 years. Only downside: I'm spending my 30th birthday volunteering at a Casino for these guys. "Cause, you know, I'm the chair and all.

  • I didn't show you my house guest the other week. He was sweet and wonderful and particularly well mannered, except for a tendency to talk in the middle of the night, and the slight accident under the bed. But he was adorable, all five pounds of snugly wonderfulness. His name is Squeak. He's actually my mum's, but he comes to stay when she's out of town. Yes, I'm hoping she goes away a lot. (Why no, Max wasn't very good about his presence, why do you ask?)


  • I am working my way through Paper Mario. The play guide, no doubt written by a five year old, has been helping enormously.


  • Miss Maggie has her first surgery this week, if you would be so kind to keep this cute face in your thoughts and prayers. This 'surgery' is to figure out how deep her jaw abscesses are, so that we can figure out how many shekels it will be to have them fixed. Via root canal. Would someone please tell me why I can't claim her as a dependent. Seems to me that she is pretty darn dependent on me.



  • I just need to point this out. Canada is having a Federal election. As we speak, we are in the campaign period. The Writ was dropped today, and our election will be October 14th. 34 days. Just sayin'.

The tomato's are exploding. Really, picked a whole whack of them today. The freezer is going to be full. I can't decide between my traditional spaghetti sauce, and salsa. Any votes?

I Feel World Weary Today

I'm not sure when it started.

Perhaps on Thursday when the re-org was announced at work. Now, I'm not affected. But, about 1/5 of the Vice-Presidents at work used to be women. Now, 1/7th are women. And I don't believe that places of employment should be have an equal balance of gender, but I think it should be somewhat closer to equal. Women matter in the workplace.
Perhaps it was a discussion on "reproductive rights" that made me feel like a murderer, who killed Gabriel. And a woman who suggested that she doesn't particularly believe that pregnancy can be fatal. Words saying "how often is it *really* fatal". But, I wasn't supposed to take offence, because she was sure that I had made the right decision. She was just presenting factual information. Factual information that wasn't based on facts. It was based on a few experiences of hers. And experiences are not facts. She figures I should have just had faith, and everything would have been ok. You know, do something totally different than what I did. But, I'm not supposed to be offended at her suggestion that if I had followed her suggestion I'd have my son, and be a better Christian.
And I was left conflicted, and hurt and very, very angry. And wondering, are there really doctors around there who suggest that women will die, when they won't? Seems to me, however much you might not like it, a woman dies every 6 minutes of pre-eclampsia in Africa. I'm tired. I'm tired of being judged by someone who has never been in my shoes, never been in that awful, terrible place of having to chose.

And I'm tired of the tendency of a certain group of women, who have never had their very lives threatened, who think that they can make reproductive rights be something that is simple and easy and pretty and clean. I'm tired of hypocrisy and narrow mindedness and sheer bloody mindedness. I'm tired of absolutes and an unwillingness to understand something from another perspective. And I'm tired of a discussion about sin, that doesn't focus on sin of setting yourself as judge and jury, and judging people more harshly than the good Lord judges you, and so adding more burdens to another person's sin instead of loving them, and giving them the grace and mercy that we all deserve as a child of God. I'm tired of looking at certain Christians and thinking "No wonder the entire world hates us. I hate us when we are like this". And I'm tired of knowing, that in their smug and self satisfied world, they will simply use the world hating them as proof that God loves them more.

Perhaps it was going to John School yesterday, which doesn't really ever assure me I live in a perfect world. Frankly, I think men who hire prostitutes are something close to the scum of the earth (I know, not very Christian of me. I'm working on it) Certainly more than that was seeing a man I knew and respected and liked in the class. If you had told me at 2pm on Saturday I would be seeing someone I knew, he would not have been on the list. Not even at the bottom of the list when I was throwing out random guesses. And I can't tell you any more, because I have signed an oath of confidentiality. So I bear this burden of knowledge about a man, that I would rather not have.

And I feel world weary today. As promised, here's the Whinge-For-All scarf. Seems appropriate on another whinge-y day.

I'm going to church. I'm going to do a bit in the garden, and then I'm going to escape into Super Paper Mario.

Weekends are for Quotes

I trust in nature for the stable laws of
beauty and utility.
Spring shall plant, and autumn garner
to the end of time.
Robert Browning

Road Side Reminders

I'm sure you've seen them. They are the road side reminders of a death. Visible grief at a life lost too soon in a traffic fatality. There is one close to my house. I didn't know the victim, I know that he had been at a high school football game, and tried to cross the road where there wasn't a cross walk, and he died. I know his name, I've seen his picture. I know that he is missed.

The City of Prince Albert, in Saskatchewan is trying to decide how long to leave them up. It's a hard debate, with good points on both sides. The article is here, with the comments.

Perhaps, as a grieving mother, a grieving person, a person with a hole in my heart, I am struck by society's demands that families and friends "be over it". I am struck by those who insist that public memorials of this type are tacky, or tasteless, or that they should be removed, because they don't match some one's aesthetic tastes. Or that they should be removed because such grief should be private. Restricted to cemeteries and homes, where many cannot see it. Certainly the one by my house looks to be in rough shape. Largely forgotten, except by a few, who may draw some comfort in knowing that their son was cared for, is not entirely forgotten. Perhaps they draw comfort that I have slowed down in that area. That I watch for young men and women. That it matters to me that children go home to their parents, safe and sound.

But, I am struck by the comments.

"We must move on"

"They attract dirt and decay"

"That's what cemeteries are for"

As I progress in my grief, as I begin to live again, I am struck by how other's expect Mr. Spit and I to be the same. How they expect that we will adjust for them, to make them feel comfortable. How we will put aside the hurt seeing a child causes, so that the parents can feel comfortable. How we will look on the bright side, and not demand that support be supportive. How they demand that any pathetic and paltry effort at support be acknowledged and appreciated.

I am, in particular, struck by the notion that these monuments should be removed when they start looking poorly. That when things get ugly, when the stuffed animals are waterlogged, when the flowers have died, when the ink has run off the notes, then we should remove them from our sight.

Did the grief go away? Did it magically vanish? Leave the world as quickly and easily as ink on wet paper? Or is it still there? Is it a twinge in a long healed broken bone, on a rainy day? A twinge that becomes almost as acute a pain as the original break, but perhaps that painful only once or twice a year. Is it a missing space? A friend who is not at this year's football games. A son who is not present at his birthday? A mother who remembers 18 years with him. A brother or a sister, who will look around at her wedding, at his graduation, and remember the other face that should have been in the family portrait?

You see, the idea of waterlogged and battered stuffed animals, dead flowers, notes with no words, they perfectly describe a stage of grief. A stage in which grief is unending in it's sameness. A mother who woke up, and her son was dead. She went to sleep, and he was still dead. The days and nights are carrying on, and perhaps she is carrying on with them, but the struggle, it is enormous. The strength required to get through each day, and to rest in each night, it defies description. And this struggle, this strength, it is largely private, largely silent. Other's do not see it, they do not bear it.

She is further along the road of grief than I, this mother. She does not share my grief, and I do not know hers. But, it seems to me, in the midst of society determined to remove grief, determined to remove human sorrow and pain, when they become battered and waterlogged, I can remember. I can observe. And I can open my eyes to the waterlogged and battered, and take it all in. And I cannot bear her grief for her. I cannot give her strength or courage, or make it any easier. But I can be a witness. I can look. And see.

Whinge-For-All Thursdays

The Object:
This is your chance to take that tiny little thing, throw it in the comments, fully whine about it. Howl, go on at length, tell us every detail. And you know what?We will all tell you that it's not fair, we'll sympathize.We won't tell you to get over it, or be thankful for what you have. We won't try to solve your problems. Today is for whinging, and you get to be a part of it.Tomorrow we'll clean up our act, and we'll go back to the being the grown ups we are.Tomorrow we'll put on our big girl pan.ti.es and deal with it.

The Contest:
Based on a highly scientific system, (like letting the cat draw names out of the hat) I will send you the scarf on the left, knit with my own two hands. It's orange and yellow and pink and reminds me tremendously of a koi goldfish. The pattern stitch is fisherman's lace, which seemed appropriate for what I have come to call the Koi Scarf.

It's not really warm, but terribly decorative, and long enough to wrap around your neck a few times. It's also slightly fuzzy. I have no idea what the wool is, I lost the ball band.

The Deadline:
September 11th at 12:00 midnight.

My Whinge:
Mr. Spit and I drive Volkswagens. We have driven VWs for 8 years, going through a Jetta Sedan, A Passat Wagon and now we have a Jetta Wagon. We are VW people. We really like them. We have bought them all at the same dealership. 2 new, 1 used. We tell people they are great cars, and they are. Well made, good price, good to drive, and with the diesel, we get really good mileage.

Said cars have had a few problems, but nothing particularly serious. Random odds and sods that go wrong. A bit of solid state electronic that went. A weird thing with the brakes. The time I drove the car into a fire hydrant. (I don't want to talk about it. I swear it jumped out at me.) Fast forward to Sunday. With a load of moving boxes in the car, when I am travelling down a pretty major freeway in the city. And I go to gear down, to turn left. And my car, my car decides that it doesn't shift any more. No gear, no reverse. Nothing. I can be in neutral. Which is not the safest gear to be in, on the freeway.

So, I have the car towed to to the dealership. (Obviously, since it's sitting in the turning lane of a free way, and not moving.) No problem think we, the car is about 2 years old, and has a little bit more than 30k on it. Surely this is a warranty issue.

Mr. Spit calls on Tuesday morning, to advise them that they have a car waiting for them.

They called today. They assert that the clutch is burnt out, and that this is normal use, warranty doesn't cover it. That will be a bit more than $2100, thank you very much.

Now, think about this. Mr. Spit has been driving a standard for 20 years. I have been driving a standard for 7 years. We put almost 60k on our first car. Also a standard. Without replacing a single clutch. The car had not been acting up. The car had not had clutch problems. 15K ago, the clutch was fine.

Mr. Spit, being a touch incredulous, starts looking online. Turns out that this is a fairly common problem. In Finland, they recalled all the Jetta's in this make and model year, because something went wrong with the flywheel, and people kept burning their clutches out. Oddly enough, it would appear that the same manufacturer makes our flywheel and clutch.

Dealership, I don't like you. At all. Mr. Spit and I are going to have to waste time fighting with you. And we will win. Because we are determined. The money that is now going to fixing the car was supposed to go to laying on a tropical beach in February. We are, how you say, motivated.

Wednesday's are For Grammar (Sound Smarter)

Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason. ~Richard C. Trench

Those Who Get to Display the Button
- Sweet Camden Lass
- Martha
- Julia S
- Two Hands
- JamieD
- Alice (Alice, you should be able to right click, save the picture and put it in your blog that way)
- Elizabeth



There is a challenge in talking about grammar, and the way that people use it badly; one must make some sort of judgment about the person, whom is, or is not using standard grammar. We necessarily make some sort of judgment about their intelligence, and possibly, their social standing. I prefer to assume that those who use poor grammar are ignorant, in the classical sense of the world. Not meaning rude or primitive, but unschooled, not knowing better. I, myself are sure that they would like too do better.

The other challenge with English grammar is that standards of correctness vary, from time and country too the text book or style manual that you use. In my professional life, our style guide for writing often requires me to stretch the bounds of good English, two almost a breaking point. I seen some awful mistakes and really bad wording.

Many of you have emailed me to ask me a particular grammar question. And I'm always happy to give answers. Really. But, sometimes, the questions are grey - it really is a matter of preference. Or what country you live in. What Sam or Sweet Camden Lass in the UK would find appalling, we would find quite normal. Sometimes you have to lie your expectations down.
So, with those proviso’s, I offer Mrs. Spit'ts Grammerian Guide to Making Yourself Sound all Intelligent-like and making less mistakes.


Is and Are (and Am)
Is, Are and Am are conjugations of the verb to be. Blogger, in it's stubbornness doesn't let me show you a table, so here's my best approximation.

I am a blogger (First person, singular)
You are a blogger (Second person, singular)
S/He is a blogger (Third person, singular)
It is a blogger (and likely a troll, we don't use 'it' to refer to people.)
We are bloggers (First person, plural)
They are bloggers (Third person, plural)

So, the rules for this conjugation:

'I' takes the form 'am', it's singular in the sense that it refers to one person, speaking of them self.
He, She, and It take the form is, it's singular in the sense that it refers to one person, that we are speaking of.
We takes the form are, it's plural, and we are talking about ourselves and at least one other person.
They takes the form are, it's plural and we are talking about other people.

You is an interesting case. A remnant in the English language, from the Latin, that had two forms of 'you' - Thee (for people you were familiar with) and Thou (for everyone else). It's the only remnant of the second person singular, and you will just have to remember, we use are with you, NOT is.

Who and Whom
Can I confess - I hate who and whom. I always have to think about which one to use. I think, eventually, the archaic whom will go away, and we will use only who. Until that blessed day, here's how to tell the difference.

Who and Whom are actually pronouns.

If you can replace the who with he, she or they, you are using who correctly.

If you can replace the whom with him, her or them, you are using correctly.

Alright, a few examples.
Mrs. Spit gave us a grammar lesson. Who gave you a grammar lesson? (You could replace Mrs. Spit with she, so you use who)
Did you see Mrs. Spit leave? Whom did you see leave? (You would replace Mrs. Spit with her, so you use whom)

I warn you, with this rule, significant re-jigging of sentences might be required. Sometimes it's easier to guess, you have a 50% chance. Just saying.

To, Too, and Two
Well, I get to and too mixed up a lot. Let's see if we can straighten us all out.

Two is a number. We use it when we are referring to a count noun - Mrs. Spit has two dogs. There are no excuses for getting this wrong. None. You get banished to grammar perdition if you mix up two with to or too.

To is a preposition. That means it describes the relationship of one thing to another.

She is going to bed.
She likes to knit.

Too is an adverb. (I know, an adverb that doesn't end in -ly. It's not fair!). Remember, an adverb modifies the verb. Or to make it much, much easier, if you are stuck, ask yourself, could I replace the too with words like "as well, also, excessively, likewise, overly." If so, you mean too.

See, Saw, Seen
Ahh, getting this wrong is very, very VERY likely to get you smacked in Mrs. Spit's house. I mean it, there is a special place in grammar perdition for those who use seen when they mean saw. This actually isn't conjugation, it's tense.

I see - Present tense. You are seeing this item right now.
I see that you are all committed to learning better grammar.

I saw - Past tense. You saw this in the past.
I saw Mrs. Spit knitting yesterday.

I have seen - Past participle. Past participles are a bit tricky to explain, without explaining verbal tenses. So, let me try it this way. Remember those auxiliary verbs we talked about? I'll make it very simple. When you are saying seen, you are saying that you did see something, in the indeterminate past. You need to add a helping verb so that your listener can figure out what you mean.

Do NOT ever use "seen" in a sentence without an auxiliary verb like "to have". I mean it, if I catch you saying "I seen that", I will completely lose it!

I have seen Mrs. Spit knitting.

Starting a sentence with a conjunction (And, But, Or, Not)
Ok class, how many of you remember a teacher telling you that you can't start a sentence with one of these words? I thought so. You can, but with some proviso's. Very often, when we start a sentence with 'and', we don't actually make a complete sentence. If you are going to start a sentence with a conjunction, you must make sure that you have a complete sentence.

I, Myself
Another thing that drives me crazy. This is wrong. You can start a sentence with I.
I like knitting.

Myself, on the other hand, is a reflexive pronoun. That means that you may only use "myself" when the subject of the sentence is the same as the person taking the action (the object).

You would say "I bought myself a present".

Do NOT say "I, myself bought a present". As opposed to you, the other person?

Count Nouns (Fewer and Less)
I went to a Trader Joe's in California. There was a sign about the check-out saying 12 items or fewer. I was irritated at first, but they are actually correct. Use:

Fewer for count nouns - things that can be counted - apples, cars, money.

I have 12 fewer knitting needles today.



Less for non-count nouns - things that cannot be counted, space, ideas, anything that can't be quantified in units.

I have done less knitting this year.

Proviso: In spite of this rule, we always use less for people. It's rude to count people as items. Don't ask why. It's just one of those odd-ball English things.

There are less people knitting now.

Lie or Lay
This is the easiest one to figure out. Let me introduce you to the chicken rule.

A chicken lays an egg, and then lies on them.

Lay: to place or set an object on something. Many verbs take an -ed ending in the past tense. Lay is different. Both the present and the past tense are lay. There is no such word as 'layed'.


Lie: to recline.

Mrs. Spit has a wee lie down every Saturday at 2 o'clock.

Mrs. Spit lay her knitting down on the chair.

Your Homework
I have made 9 deliberate mistakes in the first paragraphs of this post. See if you can find them all.

We've been friends a long time, let's say we call it quits?

I was driving to a friends, to feed her cats, while she is away, and I was listening to a political commentator talking about spin and how we love to hate our politicians. And then I was driving home, listening to 3 commentators about which cities they loved and hated. Finally, on the way home from the grocery store, I listened to the child of holocaust survivor. Who talked about refusing to hate. Hate has been on my mind, of late. And it's a word we throw around a lot. I hate onions and cooked spinach. I hate my computer when it does that. I hate. . .

I was having this conversation at the hairdressers. About this person that I wish I really hadn't met. And frankly, I could do without her in my life.

"Mrs. Spit, you just don't like her."

Sigh. "You're right."

And with those words leaving my mouth, I felt both a weight lift from my very soul, and a terrible dread. What does it mean to be a person who just doesn't like someone? What does it mean when you look at this person, and think they just aren't the greatest of people? And that because of who they married, and how they are connected to you, you have to put up with them, at least on some level, but, honest to goodness, you just don't like them?

Because you just don't, can't make yourself like them? When you throw up your hands and say when I met you, I expected to like you. And I have tried, valiantly, vainly, and possibly beyond the realm of sensible. Five years. I have tried to find common ground, find the good and the nice in her. I just don't like her. And I have to confess, damn I'm tired of trying. Would someone tell me when I can pack it in without feeling like I should have tried harder?

The cashier was less than charming at the grocery store last night. I didn't hate her, but I did make a mental note to avoid her line next time. I suppose I could easily say I didn't like her. . .

But I didn't lay awake last night. I don't feel guilty telling you I didn't care for the cashier.

But, it comes down to this. I don't like this woman, that I would still tell you was my friend, if you asked. I'm not entirely sure why I don't like her - perhaps she's too blunt, too cold, too self absorbed, perhaps she's too negative, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Perhaps I could just throw up my hands, and say 'poor social skills'. On both our parts. And maybe all of that is true.

I could tell you all of the things this person has done. And I suppose I could make a good case, and I'm aware, with the power of my words, maybe I could make you dislike her too? But, if I am fair, I'm not entirely sure that she likes me that much either. Honesty compels me to admit that she could probably make a case to you about not liking me, either. I don't actually know if she likes me, I mean really, how do you start that conversation. "Hey, I don't like you much, I think you don't like me, and how about we cut out the farce and just admit we don't like each other . . ."

I don't have a million friends, but generally speaking, I don't dislike people. A few. It's rare for me to meet you and actively dislike you. I suppose we could really call it what it is - it's beyond active dislike. I don't hate, her, I won't hate her. She's not evil, she's not a monster, even though I don't particularly care for her behaviour. Loathing maybe?

And I come back to this - how do I love my neighbour, when I don't like her? And why do I feel so guilty about just saying that I don't like her?