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In My Head

Photo credit: Sophie Jevea

Photo credit: Sophie Jevea

Last Friday night, as I wiped flecks of mascara off my cheeks, I wondered if life in my head was funnier, and more exciting than in most people’s heads. Does everyone find it exciting to imagine the plane they’re in plummeting to the ocean far below? Or is it just me?

Kevin and I were on a mini vacation to Victoria to celebrate our anniversary. We had flown on two planes that day. I usually ignore the safety card in the seat pocket in front of me, but that day I decided to humour the WestJet flight attendant by following along.

“Look at this,” I said to Kevin. “If you need to evacuate the plane on land, you just open the emergency door. But if you’re on the water, you slide this thingy down, so the water doesn’t come into the plane.” We were flying over the ocean at that point, and Kevin didn’t look amused. “And the seat cushions are buoyant, so you put your arms through the elastic underneath and you’ll float when you jump out of the plane.”

That flight was the most turbulent I’d been on. The sudden drops thrilled me (and made me a little sick). I spent the entire flight imagining what a crash over the ocean would be like—lights flashing as the plane started to plummet and oxygen masks dropping.

I have a real hero complex, so I imagined calming people down and instructing them to brace themselves. After impact, I would help people to remove the cushions off their seats and help evacuate the plane. (The flight attendants who have been trained in emergency procedure were not involved in my fantasy.)

I’m embarrassed to write that I even imagined blogging about the near death experience . . . the frigid water . . . the white-capped waves.

Our plane landed in Victoria without incident.

We checked into our hotel and freshened up a little before heading off to my sister’s for dinner. I almost never wear makeup, but I applied some foundation (there was still a hint of my black eye from two weeks earlier), a little lipstick, and mascara. After all—I was in the city. ;)

My sister made an amazing dinner complete with beef roast, Yorkshire puddings with gravy, and cheesecake. The effort she’d gone to blew me away since I knew how busy she was with her six-month-old son.

After dinner, I noticed something white flapping under her arm—a tag. “Your sweater’s inside out,” I said with a smile. She laughed and started to slip it off her shoulder . . . which revealed a puddle of baby spit up. She shot me a look of horror, and then we both started howling with laughter. Tears came to my eyes as I held my stomach and rocked back and forth. (I tried to reign it in when I felt the snort laugh coming on. No, not the snort laugh!)

As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I remembered my own baby-in-the-house years where I barely had time to brush my hair and smelled like baby spit up for months at a time. Oh, it felt so good to laugh with my little sister.

Back in the hotel, I groaned when I looked in the mirror. I must have been grinding my fists in my eyes while I was laughing and crying, because I had two black eyes from the smeared mascara.

“Do you think life in my head is more interesting than reality?” I asked Kevin.

It was his turn to laugh. “Definitely.” :)

 

With my beautiful sister

With my beautiful sister

Photo credit: Jeremy PetersonI’ve been organizing my house (feel free to gasp in amazement), and I found an old writing journal of mine. I think I was about 11 when I started it. There’s a table of contents, several poems I’d written, and some story ideas. In it I recorded the founding of “The Young Writers Club.” A club that I started with a friend that contained exactly two members. We had big dreams!

I cringed as I flipped through the journal and read silly prepubescent poems. They had none of the angst that would fill my poetry as a teen—and none of the depth either. I tossed the journal into a pile of papers to be burned, fearful that someone might discover it and read my early attempts at writing.scan0001

But something held me back as I held the little exercise book over the flickering flames. I realized that this book represents the spark of my dream to become an author. I saved the journal.

I don’t recommend keeping everything. I’m trying to get over that habit now, but sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of a marker to look back on and see the progress we’ve made—whether it’s running, knitting, drawing, or patience with our children.

What skill or craft have you put a lot of effort into? Have you kept any early samples of your work?

Have a wonderful weekend!

<3 Rachel

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Phot credit: Blue Sky

Photo credit: Blue Sky

I bet some of you are trying to figure out what type of freak accident would injure both my face and my tailbone. If you know me well, you won’t be surprised to learn it was actually two separate accidents. {sigh}

A couple weeks ago, I flew to Victoria to visit my sister and my adorable nephew. The night before my flight, I stayed with some friends. We played cards until midnight, and it was 1:00 before I fell asleep. I had to be up again soon after 4:00 to catch my flight.

I used the airport washroom before going through security. I think that sleep deprivation is partly to blame for me walking straight into the edge of the bathroom stall door. The blow was enough for me to stagger back.

I came out of the washroom laughing at my stupidity and clutching wet paper towel to my cheek. Miriam (also sleep deprived after I kept her up late and had her drive me to the airport at 4:30 in the morning) shook her head and sent me off after a good hug.

I mostly forgot my encounter with the washroom door, but two days later my sister got a puzzled expression while talking to me and leaned close. “You’ve got a black eye.”

I threw my head back and laughed. Of course I had a black eye. I’d seen it on movies, women with a black eye from abuse claiming they’d walked into a door. It was ridiculous. How can you get a black eye from walking into a door? Couldn’t they come up with a better excuse? And now I was going home to tell my husband I’d gotten a black eye from walking into a door. Oh, the irony.

Kevin was as shocked as I thought he’d be. “I walked into the washroom door at the airport,” I explained. His eyebrows shot up in disbelief. “Miriam was there.” But he still seemed skeptical. I flopped onto the couch laughing. “Do you really think I’m making it up?”

Kevin suppressed a smile. “No, I think you really could walk into a door and get a black eye.”

Hmmm. I guess that’s only fair. My whole life has been fraught with stupid accidents from breaking both arms as a child to falling down the stairs twice in the first months we moved into our house.

I thought I’d gotten more sensible since then. I stopped breaking all the dishes in the house and worked on focusing on the task at hand instead of constantly daydreaming.

But another accident less than a week after getting my black eye showed me that that whole focusing thing needs more work.

I was headed to the outhouse after dinner (just take a moment here to be grateful for your indoor plumbing), and I was probably daydreaming about some book I want to write someday. I slipped off the porch, went soaring over the three steps, and landed with a thud on my backside.

Maybe I’m exaggerating about the whole broken tailbone thing. I don’t know. But that was Sunday night, and I haven’t sat down since then without pain. It’s actually less funny than the black eye, because it hurts a lot more.

I’m sure I’ll be sitting without a grimace in a couple weeks, but I don’t want to just forget about my carelessness. I’m hoping that at 35 I’m capable of learning from my mistakes and using a little more caution—and not just when it comes to dark porches and airport washrooms. ;)

Joel and William

Joel and William

It’s hard to believe my youngest will be turning four in two months—he’s growing up so fast. In the midst of the busyness of raising children, it’s difficult to imagine a time when there aren’t little ones about, but now I find it’s just around the corner.

It’s been my goal for these sixteen years of childrearing to treasure the time with my children. I’ve often failed in this. There have been seasons when my focus has been elsewhere. But God has been faithful to remind me that the time is short with my children, and to draw my heart back to delighting in the simple joys of mothering.

During this time of raising children, I’ve experienced more pain and more joy than I ever thought possible—and if I had the choice I’d do it all over again.

This is life—raw and uncontained—where I’ve discovered the depths of love in a thousand acts of devotion, from a droopy sunflower handed to me from a chubby fist to heart-shaped cards found hidden in my suitcase while away from home.

Were the sleepless nights worth it? Yes! Or the horrifyingly embarrassing moments when my children have vomited in restaurants or knocked over shopping carts? Yes—worth it even then.

Tonight we went out for Chinese food and several times my three-year-old, Joel, had us all laughing. At one point he belted out, “I need champagne!” (He meant chow mein.) After our meal he was handed his very first fortune cookie. Everyone was reading their fortunes when one of my sons asked Joel where his fortune paper was. “I guess I eated it,” was Joel’s solemn reply. I’m afraid I laughed long and hard at his deep sigh. (His big sister soon made it all better by giving him her fortune.)

I’ll miss having a three-year-old around! It’s always at this point—when my youngest is two or three—that I start begging my husband for another baby. But I promised I wouldn’t ask him again, and I am content with my six wild and wonderful children…but I’ll still miss having a little one to make me laugh.

I’m enjoying every stage—teaching my six-year-old to read, being startled when my eleven-year-olds jump out of dark closets to make me scream, watching my thirteen-year-old blossom in her first part-time job, learning chemistry along with my fifteen-year-old—but I’ll never have another one, two or three-year-old again.

And so here I am—making a recommitment to…cherish the moment.

 

Photo credit: Aiyaz Kidwai

Photo credit: Aiyaz Kidwai

Did you know that the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb happened right here in Canada?

Our family’s been delving into Canadian history with Canada: A People’s History. I always thought that Canadian history was more boring than counting snowflakes, but homeschooling has given me a second chance to fall in love with learning about the history of our beautiful country.

I feel like it honours those who have gone before us to learn their stories and share them with our children.

Back to the explosion—it happened December 6, 1917 when two ships—one of them full of explosives—collided near Halifax. A pressure wave from the blast flattened the community of Richmond, and a Tsunami that went out from it completely destroyed a community of Mi’kmaq First Nations people.

Touched by this devastating story, my daughter Myra wrote a poem about it:

 

The Halifax Explosion

 

The ships collide and fire spreads

Reflections painted, blues, blacks, reds

They’re gathering along the shores

Peering out from windows and doors

 

The fire burns and time ticks on

Crowds grow, the peace of morning gone

They all have come, but won’t all go

They cannot see, they do not know

 

Blasting out, a terrible wave

Flattening homes, none can they save

First, silent screams and dancing flames

Then rush of sounds, they cry out names

Above it all the bells conclave

 

When fire stops and wailings cease

The search goes on, there is no peace

So many lost, so many dead

For those who live, no hope ahead

 

Once a city on a harbour

Peaceful and happy, now no more

City of sorrow, city of ruin

And snow floats down under the moon

 

To learn more about the Halifax explosion, check out this interactive website: cbc.ca/halifaxexplosion/

winter-1527041-1279x852

Photo credit: Griszka Niewiadomski

I really didn’t feel like going outside today. The kids were busy making a snow fort, and I was only chapters away from the end of a good book. So tempting to grab a cup of tea and my book and soak up that rare quiet time.

But . . . we musn’t forget the importance of sanity. So I threw on my coat and a pair of gloves and headed out into the snowy outdoors.

Yes, going outside every day during the winter helps to keep me sane and happy. And it’s wise to stay sane and happy while homeschooling six children . . . and when your husband is home for the winter.

We’re just on the other side of the winter solstice, and praise God, the days are starting to lengthen again. But the sun doesn’t wake until 8:30 a.m. and it’s already dark again by 4:30 in the afternoon. With days so short, I need to bask in the sun while it shines.

I need the light and the fresh air and the exercise to push away the fogginess that tends to settle over my heart and brain during these long and cold northern winters.

When my friends share that they’re struggling to cope, I always ask if they’re getting fresh air and exercise. I sound like a parrot that only learned one phrase. I’m annoyingly persistent in asking this—because it’s that important.

I did get to my book after the kids were in bed for the night. I enjoyed two cups of tea, and the ending of the book was as satisfying as I’d hoped. I feel happy and healthy, and I know that’s in part because I made myself get outside for a good walk today.

Stay sane this winter!

<3 Rachel

freeimages.com

freeimages.com

If you’ve wondered where I disappeared to over the past few months, I’m here to confess that I’ve fallen into an imaginary world of my own making.

It all started a year ago. I joined thousands of others from all over the world and made the commitment to write an entire novel in one month. (Some of you know this strange ritual of insanity as NaNoWriMo.) I ate too much chocolate and slept far too little and somehow managed to finish my novel in thirty days.

I named it One act of Defiance and then refused to look at it for two months. Finally, I reread my book and I loved my characters, but I knew it could be better. I thought of great novels and movies and tried to think of the things that made them great. Certainly a key factor is deep characters that we can empathize with and who change over the course of the story, but other factors are mystery and high stakes and action and a deep theme.

I brainstormed ideas to make my book better, and I realized I had two choices. I could go ahead and edit my novel as it was, or I could completely rewrite it and make the story bigger and deeper. I ended up taking my characters and my first chapter, and I started again.

I worked with a few editors and mentors. I sought out critique and tried to apply their suggestions. The second time writing my book was harder and took longer.

I decided to enter my novel in a few contests. This morning I learned that my book was long-listed for the Caledonia Novel Award and I was asked to send my full manuscript, and then tonight I found out that my book received the third-place prize in the Page Turner contest. I’m so thankful for all of the amazing people who supported, encouraged, and taught me on this journey!

I’m afraid I’m only resurfacing from my imaginary world briefly. Did I mention that I entered my book in these contests before it was quite finished? I have seven days to write the last 10,000 words, so my novel can be considered for the Caledonia Novel Award.

Good thing I work well under pressure. ;)

Much love,

Rachel

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