Food for Thought on a Monday Night

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1. Homemade low country boil (crab, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn cooked in broth) is awesome. I used this recipe as my inspiration.

source: flickr.com

source: flickr.com

2. There is loud, and then there is “I’m in the bath, and excited and taking advantage of the acoustics” loud.

3. Today, the Bean learned that you don’t put soap in your eyes.

4. Today, Mummy learned that the Bean still needs 100% supervision during bath time. Sitting right beside her reading does not count.

5. It pays to ask questions. Today, we got a huge discount (more than 50% off) on our tickets to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo because I thought to ask whether they have a deal for Oakland Zoo members.

6. When you go away for the night, there is no cleaning fairy that comes and makes sure your house feels like a hotel room when you get home.

source: flickr.com

source: flickr.com

7. Lest we forget: November 11 is Remembrance Day (Canada) and Veteran’s Day (US), and we must not forget to honour our soldiers: the fallen, the veterans, and those still in active duty. Thank you to all who have sacrificed so the rest of us can experience freedom.

8. I have missed blogging and am determined to get back to it on a more regular basis. This is a nice easy start.

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School Helped Me Learn About Life

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The Assignment: Write a 500-1000 word essay about memories of your mother or childhood growing up.

My daughter recently started preschool, and this exciting milestone has me thinking about my own experience with school.  I loved school and I learned a lot of academically, but the moments that stick out most in my memory are not necessarily the pleasant, happy experiences: they are the experiences that taught me about life and about myself.

Noddy in his car

courtesy bbc.co.uk

Some of my earliest childhood memories occurred at school.  I went to Noddy Nursery School when I was three or four years old.  I clearly remember lying down on a mat for naptime every afternoon, and painting and colouring.  I remember playing outside with my friends and I’m pretty sure I got at least one skinned knee on the playground.  This early school experience taught me about following directions, getting along with my peers, and the value of a predictable schedule.  I’m still very good at following directions and getting along with people, but I tend to struggle a little with discipline and scheduling.

My first strong memory of Kindergarten was not as positive.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Kindergarten; but there was one particular incident that haunts me.  One of the other children was being disruptive in class.  Our teacher had asked him several times to be quiet, and he kept acting up.  Finally, she yelled at him and sent him to the principal.  I was a sensitive kid, and was pretty sure that it was not a good idea to get yelled at in school.  I started crying.  I knew the teacher wasn’t angry at me, but I felt the embarrassment and fear of being  “in trouble” as if she had been shouting at me directly.  Memories of that feeling have stayed with me ever since, and I still do my best to avoid being “trouble” for others.

One of the few times I did misbehave in school was in grade 4.  I was outside in the corridor working on a school project with a classmate.  Our teacher had warned us that the privilege of working on our own outside required our solemn promise to stay there and focus on our work.  After working for a while, we heard noises coming from the auditorium.  Despite our promise to our teacher, curiosity won the battle and we went to investigate.  We were caught snooping around and lost our freedom to work outside.  I was mortified.  I wasn’t the type of kid who misbehaved, and I certainly didn’t want my teacher to think any less of me.  Once again, my foray into rebellion was quashed quickly and I returned to being a “good girl”.

world map

Our journey home from Botswana to BC in 1986

Grade 5 was another interesting experience for me; it was the year we moved back to Canada from Botswana.  In Botswana, the school year starts in January; we left Botswana in June, so I had already had 6 months of fifth grade before starting again in September.  The curriculum was quite different in my new school, but even so, I found that first year of school in Canada to be a breeze.  Making friends wasn’t too hard, and I’m pretty sure I was in the “cool kids” group.  The culture shock that so strongly affected my mother didn’t seem to bother me much.  In our move from Africa to North America, a pretty major shift, I learned that I adapt quite easily to change, and that I can adjust my behavior to help others feel comfortable with me.  My mother used to tell me that I would come home from playing at a friend’s house, and I would talk like that friend for a while before slowly reverting back to my own cadence and tone.  I was a social chameleon.

My admittance into the “cool kids” group didn’t last long, however.  In grade 6, a new student joined our class from another school and she was instantly disliked by my group of friends because she was different.  She was a year older than us and had failed a grade in school.  She was overweight, a little strange, and from a poor family; exactly the kind of hard luck case I have trouble resisting.  I was raised to be kind to everyone; Denise was lonely and needed some kindness.  I took her on as my friend, and was immediately dropped by my “best friends” as a social outcast.  Another quiet Indo-Canadian girl joined our crew and we were a threesome; totally inseparable.

I have some wonderful memories of hanging out with my new best friend, Denise.  She introduced me to the Monkees and we made up dance routines to Bangles songs.  When we joined the Jive Club after school, we were the two odd girls out, so we learned to Jive with each other, taking turns with the “boy” steps.  “Rockin’ Robin” will always bring back memories of dancing on the school stage with Denise.  These memories are important to me because they are the result of following my heart instead of what others thought was best.  I was true to my values, and that has been an important theme for my life.

My early memories of school are an integral part of my childhood.  School was important to me: it contributed strongly to my identity and self esteem, it was where I learned much about myself and others, and it was where I started to figure out how to interact with other kids my age.  In fact, I can’t reminisce about my childhood for very long before a school-based memory pops to mind.  Sure, I worked and played at home and out in my community, but a good portion of my childhood was spent at school, and it was a valuable experience.

Shall I compare thee to Shakespeare?

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The Assignment: Take a popular poem by a poet you enjoy, and re-write the poem in your own words. It can be roughly the same length, but don’t use the original poet’s words; instead, follow along with the original poet, and invent your own new word usages to the same end.

courtesy http://www.alljuliuscaesar.
bravehost.com

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?    
by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You are just like a perfect day in June
by Bethany Seto

You are just like a perfect day in June;
Though even more beautiful and more calm.
The summer bliss is over all too soon,
And storms rage o’er the California palms

Mid-summer says the sun will be too hot,
And yet at times, it’s fair light is muted;
Everything that is lovely becomes naught,
When time or events undo what is rooted.

But summer in your face will always shine
And you won’t lose the beauty you enjoy;
Your youthful soul will not grow old and die,
Though Time has passed and moments you employ.

As long as people live and breathe and read,
This poem will keep you in their memory.

Creative Forms of Writing

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This is the second assignment of my Creative Writing Class

Creative writing can take various forms: from fact to fiction, from poetry to documentary, from brief to epic, from simple to complex.  When it comes to creative writing the sky seems to be the limit.  Even something as potentially dull and straightforward as a user manual or a cook book can be written creatively.  However, the forms of creative writing that probably come to mind for most people right off the bat are poetry, fiction and plays (or screenplays).

Poetry, to me, is the epitome of creativity: to describe an idea with such beauty and thoughtfulness that you reach the reader in their heart, not just in their mind.  It is the heart poured out on paper, and can be extremely personal and yet speak to an idea or an audience so much larger than oneself.

Fiction is an escape from the daily grind.  It comes in many forms, but the underlying idea is that it is a story created in the author’s imagination, and not real.  What I love about fiction is that it stretches my imagination and broadens my perspective without the pain of going through all the experiences described in the story.  It is also the form of creative writing I most fear to try for myself because I don’t think I’ve got what it takes to write an interesting plot.

Plays are another form of fiction acted out on a stage or on a film set for an audience.  They tell a story, using sight and sound to transport the audience into a different world. With a play, the experience is a shared one, different from the usually solitary and individual experience of reading a novel.  Even if a movie is viewed by oneself, the visual and auditory stimuli are the same for all viewers.

To be honest, I’d never thought about work like newspaper articles, history textbooks and documentaries as creative writing.  But of course all of these tell stories too, they just tend to be true stories – as true as a story can get when told from the perspective of the writer.  As they say, history is written by the victor; the loser might consider the victor’s version of the story to be fiction.

The form of creative writing I am most comfortable with is the personal essay.  I enjoy writing for my blog because I’m not constrained by much.  I can write what I want without having to do much research or fact-checking, because I’m writing about my own experience and ideas. I can reach my audience in creative ways, but it doesn’t feel as daunting as coming up with an interesting story line or a deep poetic idea.

On the Kindle:Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream

Our most recent Book Club choice was written by the close friend of one of our club members.  She’s even mentioned in the Thank You page. The story is one of a depressed artist who is making plans for her own death, wanting her suicide to be as clean and tidy as possible for those who will have to deal with the aftermath.  While this might sound like a morbid theme for a novel, it is written with great humour and sensitivity. Clementine’s character development is fascinating, as is the exploration of her relationships.  Clementine is irreverent and considerate, creative and yet barely capable of taking care of herself, impulsive and methodical, solitary and loved by more people than she realizes.

I highly recommend this book, and I look forward to reading more from Ashley Ream.

Creativity in Writing

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My wonderful Sweetie enrolled me in an online Creative Writing course as a Christmas present.  He wanted to encourage my blogging, and this was such a great way to do it!  Since it seems a shame to write and NOT post it on my blog, I’ll be posting my assignments here as well as submitting them to my instructor.  Here is the first one:

courtesy cartoonstock.com

What’s so important about creativity?  Who really needs it?  Is it possible to live a healthy, happy life without it?  These are all vital questions because creativity itself is vital.  Creativity is what brings life to the world.  If nothing is ever created, no new ideas or materials can become a reality and eventually everything will just grow old and die. The way our world functions is a prime example of divine creativity.  Each day, flowers bloom and fade, people are born and others die, species evolve and become extinct.  The cycle of life is the constant creation of new ideas and new materials, and the depth and breadth of the variety of species on earth point to ultimate creativity.

Creativity is vital in every industry, to every person, and in every situation.  Some people might say that it is humans’ intelligence that separates us from the other animals of our world, but I believe it’s our creativity.  Creativity is how we generate culture, traditions, new ideas and new products.  When a company is floundering, it often just needs some ‘new blood’ to get it going again – a new creative force to come up with some new ideas.  When a topic of study is being taught creatively, students absorb and retain the information much more readily.  When a movie is being made, its success or failure as a commercial endeavor depends wholly on the creativity of the writers, actors and directors involved in the project.  Creativity is what makes things interesting.  Creativity is what gives our lives flair and keeps us actively involved.  Our brains are wired to respond well to creativity.

It is for this very reason that creativity is important in writing.  If I want to tell you about my day, and I simply log the facts, you’re not likely to pay attention for very long.  But if I add some color to my ideas, and provide details in a creative way, you’ll be much more engaged and willing to connect with my tale.  One of my biggest complaints in college was text books that lacked creativity.  What is wrong with writing history in a way that engages the imagination and fosters human interest?  I couldn’t stand to take a history course in college, but I very much enjoy reading historical novels and watching movies based on real historic events.  Why?  Because the writers have used their creativity to make the story worth paying attention to.

This creative writing class is so named because its purpose is to help us tap into the creativity we already possess, simply by being members of the human species.  Not everyone will express their creativity through writing.  Some design art, some create music, and others may make video games.  Even accountants and mortgage brokers have an opportunity to improve their craft by using their creativity.  One of my chosen creative outlets is writing, and I look forward to this course as a reason to practice and hone my written creativity.