Friday, 21 November 2014

Nanowrimo Rules!

"Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!" (Nanowrimo slogan)

This year, I'm participating again in Nanowrimo, a marathon of words for the month of November.  Now that I have some experience under my belt, it is getting easier.  I know what to expect; that's half the battle.  I have an outline to work from.  That organizes me.  And I'm writing about a topic that I've written about before.  They say write what you know.

Nanowrimo is all about quantity.  Write now, edit later.  I do have to admit that I'm cheating this year:  in the past I've written the standard 50,000 words. This year, I'm only writing 30,000.  That is because I am writing a middle grade chapter book, not an adult length novel.  Besides which, it seems so much more manageable to meet a 1000-word-a-day rather than a 1700-word-a-day quota.  Right now I am sitting at just over 22,000 words, over a third of the way to my goal.  I find that if I keep a day ahead of where I'm supposed to be, then if I miss a day, I'll still be on schedule.

Even though this is my fourth time participating in Nanowrimo, it is still exhilarating.  I love the research process.  I love sitting down at the computer and filling the blank page.  I love setting the context.  I love finding "le mot juste", even if it takes me several minutes.  I love weaving historical details into each scene.

A project that started in San Franciso Bay area in 1999 with 21 participants has now blossomed into 400,000 members as of 2013.  I first took part in 2009.  Would you like to join?  It's well worth the time and it's a great workout for your brain!

Note:  For more information, read my post "Nanowrimo:  A Marathon of Words" at:

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Six Feet of Snow in Buffalo

I remember the winter of 1977 when Southern Ontario was buried under giant snowdrifts for weeks. But it seems like that winter pales in comparison to what Buffalo is facing this week.  My nephew Cody posted a photo of several people trying to clear the rooftop of a house in the American city. The house, surrounded by snow coated evergreens, is covered with a massive snowdrift.  The adults who chip away at it with shovels are dwarfed by its sheer size.    

The picture shows us how powerful nature is, and how powerless we are.  Standing on that rooftop must be a humbling experience.  It will probably take the Buffalonians all day to clear off that roof. But I'm sure they'll never forget this snowfall.  It will be etched in their memory.  They have the photograph to prove it.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Dancing around Christmas

Kirk Cameron, the actor who starred in "Fireproof", has a new movie out called "Saving Christmas". I'd like to see it but it isn't playing in Brantford.  It's pretty sad when I can watch "Dumb and Dumber To", but not "Saving Christmas", even though the Christmas season is approaching.

"Saving Christmas" is about getting back to the true meaning of Christmas.  Remember the old TV show special "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965)?  Charlie Brown, frustrated with the materialism of Christmas, directs a Christmas pageant.  But he feels like he's failed when the centrepiece for the whole play is a sad little evergreen tree with a bit of tinsel draped over it.

It is Linus who reminds him about the true meaning of Christmas.  A spotlight shines on Linus who, holding his blue "companion" blanket, takes the stage.  His speech opens with the words:  "And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night." A hush falls over the audience as we ponder Linus' message, that a baby, born in a lowly manger, has come into the world to save us.

How could we, like Charlie Brown, get it so wrong?  The word is CHRISTmas.  We should celebrate Christ.  And yet we dance around the word the way children danced around the forlorn fir tree. We don't even call it Christmas anymore.  The stores advertise "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings".  Or even "Happy Hannukah" which doesn't fall at the same time as Christmas and isn't even the biggest holiday of the Jewish calendar.  To counter the political correctness campaign, I make a point of saying "Merry Christmas" as loudly and as often as I can.

I'm just as guilty as the next person, however, about turning Christmas into an assembly line of decorating the house, writing Christmas cards, baking dozens of cookies, shopping shoulder-to-shoulder at the mall, wrapping endless gifts, stuffing stockings, stuffing the bird and stuffing my face.

How can I strip it back to its original meaning, the way Linus did?  I need to return to Linus' text, Luke 2: 8.  Then I will feel His presence -- the true meaning of Christmas.  To listen to Linus' speech, click here:

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Farewell to Autumn

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Jacqueline and her two girlfriends went trick or treating, orange sacs under their arms, leaves swirling around them down the moonlit streets.  This morning, Thomas cleaned snow and ice off the car. Jacqueline's door was frozen shut.  My teenager even wore a coat! When I dropped Jacqueline off at school, she went directly into the portable because the temperature was so low.

I came home and browsed on Facebook to find a photograph of a ripe red apple still hanging from the tree surrounded by a winter wonderland in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.  I feel like that apple.  I still want to cling to the tree and hang on to autumn.  I'm not ready for the fierce winter winds, the frigid temperatures, the icy roads.

I want autumn to last forever.  I want to enjoy the coloured leaves on the trees, the flocks of birds soaring through the clear blue sky as they fly south, the gold chrysanthemums in the garden.  I want to rake leaves and bake pumpkin Bundt cake and watch the harvest moon rise over the horizon.  I want to enjoy the stillness of the season.  

As the ripe red apple still clings to the tree, snowflakes fall.  Farewell to autumn.

Monday, 17 November 2014

A Moving Box, a Dumpster & an Automobile

For twenty years we had a little old lady living across the street.  She kept to herself, cut her grass, pruned her trees, tended to her flowers, and kept her house in tiptop shape.  She passed away and new neighbours moved in last year.  What a switch!  The Christmas season has arrived and most people decorate with a string of lights or a reindeer in the middle of the lawn.  Not the new neighbours -- they have a different style.

First they hauled in a gigantic Moving Box to fill half of their driveway.  We thought:  It's probably temporary.  But that wasn't all.  Next, they moved in a dumpster.  I was thrilled at Halloween when a truck came to haul the full dumpster away.  But no, he replaced the green dumpster with a red one. But that wasn't  all.  Next, they moved in an automobile which straddles the sidewalk.  What ever happened to the bylaw that you had to have your sidewalks cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall?  How about a car?

If this isn't in violation of a bylaw, it's got to be in violation of a fire law.  There is no more than a foot between the Moving Box and the house.  The front door is at the side of the house.  How do the neighbours get in and out of their house?  Firefighters, with all their gear, would never be able to get in and out of there.

And what about the neighbours?  The elderly lady next door has battled cancer.  Her husband passed away from cancer about five years ago.  We only see her when she goes to church on Sunday or when she lets her little poodle outside for some fresh air.  When she opens her front door, what a beautiful view she has!

What ever happened to common courtesy, to consideration for others?  A little consideration goes a long way.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Advent: The Season of Anticipation

Today at church Jacqueline and I helped the Junior and Senior Kindergarten Sunday School students put together advent wreaths.  We gave each student a green wreath cut out of styrofoam-like material. Then, we gave them candle #1, HOPE, which they had to colour purple.  Next was candle #2 PEACE which they had to colour purple as well.  Candle #3 was JOY which they coloured pink.  Candle #4 was LOVE which they coloured purple and Candle #5 was JESUS which they left white.  Some of the students were already had their candles coloured and glued on.  Some needed help with the colouring and gluing.  Some needed help reading the five words.  But all were immersed in the activity, their little fingers working busily to finish the task.

The season of advent brings back great memories for me.  The anticipation of the coming of Christmas, the coming of Jesus, makes it so exciting.  I remember the Christmas wreath at our home church.  I always looked forward to the lighting of one candle, followed the next week by two, and so on, building up to the Jesus or Christ candle on Christmas Eve.  One of the Advent Sundays was also a white gift Sunday where we would wrap a canned good in white tissue paper, twist it at the ends and put it under the Christmas tree at the front of the sanctuary.

As an adult, we celebrate Advent at home as well, following Rob's German Lutheran tradition.  My mom gave us her old wreath which she used to hang on our front door.  I bought a holder which fits four candles which sits inside the wreath.  We sit it on our dining room table.  For each of the Sundays of Advent, once it gets dark, we light a candle on the wreath, and sing Christmas carols (English and German).  At the end, we take turns saying a prayer and blowing out a candle.  As toddlers, our children cried when they had to sit still for Advent.  As preschoolers, they suggested we sing Happy Birthday (the only song they knew by heart).  As older children, they loved the tradition.

In two weeks, we will light the Candle of PEACE.  I can already feel the anticipation.  Maybe some of my Kindergarten students will post their wreaths on their fridge doors.  Likely some will have an Advent wreath at home.  Maybe they'll even sing. I'm sure Jesus will smile when he hears their little voices.