Monday, February 28, 2011

The Colour of Poverty

Brett and I lingered over our candle-lit dinner, and reflected on our day.  While I had taken the opportunity to lounge the day away, he had ventured out with his camera slung around his neck, intent on capturing the heart of Malawi via his lens. Children had swarmed around him, jumping, posing and begging to have their pictures taken. Laughter followed him around the beach and through the village, as he wandered. The sparkle in his eyes told me that he had enjoyed every minute of it.
I had seen that myself, when he ambled up the beach with his entourage of boys giggling and yelling. They had stopped at my towel where I was reading, and their antics were a sight to behold. Gregarious boys were laughing and running circles around us. Shy girls quietly clung to the outskirts of the circle, a part of the fray, but by their nature, removed. A few daring girls came over to feel my hair and skin, to see if it felt any different than their own black counter-parts. I encouraged their curiousity and admired their beauty as well. It was a delightful exchange and the mirth was infectious. By the time the group dispersed, I was smiling and laughing too. 

Over dinner our conversation was a little more serious though.  While the children had been happy and friendly,  their poverty was all too apparent. They were dressed in nothing more than rags. Excessive wear had robbed the clothes of any colour that they once may have sported. The contrast between their childish glee, was strangely muted by their drab monotonous colour palette. While it did not dampen their enthusiasm, it did diminish our joy.
One image remained in my mind of a little boy in the group that had been wearing a pair of trousers that were bereft of a crotch or bum. His little “chaps” spoke volumes of the standard of living that was so disparate from my own, so far away.  While Brett reminded me that he probably kept his better clothes for school, that could not shake the vision from my eyes. I would not have kept his clothes for rags back home, but here he was running around in public without adequate covering. I am not overly prudish, but his exposure hurt my heart and soul.
 As we watched the last light of the day disappear, we wondered what we would learn the following morning. It would prove to be interesting, as we would see exactly what some of these children did wear to school. It was the last day of the term for the students at Mwaya Beach Primary School. A couple of boys that Brett had met on the beach had invited us to tag along with them to hear test results and tour their classrooms.
I watched the full moon rise into the sky, before being driven under my mosquito net for the night to dream of my date at the chalkboard.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday's Email of the Week: Got a Guffaw

Thank God it's almost Spring and chapstick won't be so necessary any more. Ew!
  

This will be particularly interesting info for those that suffer from chapped lips.


THE ORIGIN OF CHAPSTICK

An old cowhand came riding into town on a hot, dry, dusty day. The local
sheriff watched from his chair in front of the saloon as the cowboy wearily
dismounted and tied his horse to the rail a few feet in front of the sheriff.

"Howdy, Stranger."

"Howdy, Sheriff."

The cowboy then moved slowly to the back of the horse, lifted his tail and
placed a big kiss on the horse's butt hole.  He dropped the horse's tail,
stepped up on the walk, and aimed toward the swinging doors of the saloon.

"Hold on there, Mister," said the Sheriff, "Did I just see what I think I
saw?"

"Reckon you did, Sheriff. I got me some powerful chapped lips."

"And does that cure them?" the Sheriff asked.

"Nope...but it keeps me from lickin' 'em."

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Neverending Story




Turn around
Look at what you see...

Reach the stars
fly up and you'll see

Dream a dream
and what you see will be

lives that keep their secrets
will unfold behind the clouds

And there upon the rainbow
is the answer to a neverending story

In your hands
the birth of a new day

** Those are 55 words, but not mine today. I borrowed them from Limahl, the singer behind "The Neverending Story". It is the theme song for a movie by the same name, that I loved as a kid. I watched it with my girls tonight and they enjoyed the story as much as I did back in 1984, and still do today. It is a movie about believing in yourself and your dreams. It touched my heart with its pure message, and I share with you above some of that.


If you have a Flash Fiction in 55 words, go check out the fun over at G-Man's. He is always a swell host and will make a point of coming to visit you. Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Heart Song

golden haired angel
with gentle nature and charms
riding love's heart waves
fed by birth's memories and
the joyful sound of laughter


Hearts


Happy Birthday Princess
My first baby turns six today.
Love you forever


If you are looking for a glut of poetry
you could go take a gander at the folks at One Stop.
Today is Wednesday and the poetry is, as always,
hot and ready!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Glass Castle: A Memoir By Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle: A Memoir;  by Jeannette Walls (© 2005 Jeannette Walls, Publisher - Scribner, 288 pages)

I went to a friend's house for dinner not long ago. We hadn't seen each other in almost two years, so there was a lot of catching up to do. We discussed our children, our jobs, but more importantly, what we were doing with our lives to bring us a spot of joy. Both of us discovered that we had joined book clubs since we had seen each other last. Before I left, she handed me a book that she had read a few months back. She had enjoyed it and thought I might too. I got a brief synopsis, then went home with smiles on my face from dinner with good friends  and the acquisition of a new book for my bedside table. The Glass Castle was that book. I think I read it in about 3 days.

The Glass Castle is a memoir from Jeannette Walls. The cover proclaims the book a New York Times Bestseller, and the back page remarks that it won a Christopher Award and a Books for a Better Life Award. While I can appreciate praise, I opened the book ready to make my own judgement of how good the book really was. I met Walls sliding down in the seat of a taxi, trying to remain unseen by her Mother, as she rifled through a dumpster. An interesting start. I read on.

From Walls' introduction in her elegant party attire and lavish apartment on Park Avenue in New York City, we are taken back  in time to her youth. Her first memory is from the age of three. She begins her tale casually describing an accident where she is badly burned while cooking hot dogs in her family's small trailer in Arizona. Her Mother manages to get a neighbour to drive them to hospital, where Jeannette spends the next six weeks recovering from the burns and subsequent skin grafts that were necessary to save her life. She is strangely calm and accepting of the trauma, almost relishing her stay in hospital where she gets regular meals, clean clothes and bedding, plus much attention from the doctors and nursing staff. While her family comes to visit her, her Father comes across as brash and un-trusting of the environment. After arguing with the doctors on yet another occasion, her father materializes one day to check Jeannette out "Rex Walls-style"; he clandestinely unhooks her from her sling, picks her up in his arms and runs pell-mell down the hallway and out the emergency doors to their idling car.

"You're safe now," he proclaims, but as I read on, the truth of that seems improbable.

Jeannette was one of four children of Rex Walls and Rose Mary. As the story continues we get to know the Walls family; Dad's drunken ranting, cussing and raving, Mom's obsession with painting and little else, and the four children that seem to be pretty much left to their own devices to fend for themselves. Money is always tight and often non-existent. Food is a luxury that is wolfed down for its scarcity. In the first dozen years of Walls' life travel is frequent, but usually in the form of a "skedaddle" where most everything is left behind, as they depart in the middle of the night.

The years are tough, but Walls weaves a story that does not ask for sympathy. While her father is a self-serving alcoholic, he loves his family and tries to install his values in the children. They often wear threadbare clothes and get teased for being skin-and-bones, but all of the kids boast high intelligent and polite manners. Cleanliness might not be held in regard, but knowledge is of the utmost importance. Walls demonstrates this when she recounts a Christmas where a lack of money translates to a bleak looking holiday. With a keen sense of ingenuity and pure love, Rex gives each of his children a star for Christmas. With the gift of the star, also comes all the knowledge about its attributes, that belies the intelligence that can be found within Walls' stormy Father. You cannot help but acquiesce the materialism that surrounds the holiday and indeed of the North American culture as a whole.

The abject poverty leads one to assume that the Walls children are all doomed to abysmal lives. The funny thing about it is, that the morals and strict adherence to a decent education, often found while wandering through the desert or tinkering with broken objects, does exactly the opposite. I remind myself that the story starts with Walls obviously being well off, and this is due in large part to her strength of character and perseverance. She paints a bleak history, but cannot truly lay anger on the table at almost any point. While her struggles are more than most could bear, she offers us glittering jewels of life in amongst the dreariness that threatens to wash away the whole family. There is much pain in the telling of the story, but when I turned the last page in the book, I also found much love that touched my heart. Again, I don't think that Walls is trying to hold up her life as an example of what not to do or what to do, but she manages to find life along the broken path. She makes you want to look at your own path and find your own inner beauty amongst the scar tissues that we all have. I finished the book, sad that it was over, but warmed by this woman who was honest and true to herself and her life, refusing to let any little thing get her down. She made me want to be a better person and then reminded me, that I am.

So yes, I think the book was worthy of being on the New York Times Bestseller list for over three years and would recommend it to anyone who isn't afraid to get dirty, throw rocks and have rocks thrown right back at you. The Glass Castle is a dream that we all reach for and Walls is generous in letting us see hers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Stolen Heart

“Sheets,” I exclaimed. “Look, there is actual sheets on the beds!”
“And mosquito nets too,” I added, fingering the delicate gauze material that hung from the roof of the thatch hut.
“Pretty sweet mate,” Brett nodded as he dropped his back pack onto the matching twin bed on his side of the hut.
A man materialized at the door with the lemonade we had requested.
“Thanks Joey,” I said as he placed the tray on the sturdy wooden table and set the two tall glasses down.
“Can I get you anything else?” he asked yet again. We had been here a handful of  minutes, yet Joey had already taken our dinner orders, retrieved pillows for our luxurious looking beds and shown us every courtesy he could. I could tell that our 50 kwacha a night was going to be the best money I had ever spent.  
After double checking that we had everything we needed yet again, Joey bowed, then quietly walked back in the direction of the kitchen. I caught sight of the swish of a colourful sarong disappearing around a corner, then turned back to our room.
“This is going to be awesome,” Brett declared as he bounced on the bed with a laugh. “What should we do first?”
“I need to jump in the lake,” I declared.
The sparkling lake beckoned just a stone’s throw from our hut. Brett stepped onto the porch to give me a minute to change, then we headed down to the beach. Dropping my towel, sunglasses, journal and pen, I ran to the lake’s edge and splashed in to my thighs, before diving head long into the warm waters of Lake Malawi.
I burst through the water’s surface and smiled my face up to the sun. In a pure moment of joy, I kicked out and drifted on my back gazing at the Malawian sky that surrounded me. The sandy beach lay behind me, with its cluster of neat little huts tucked amongst green palm trees. Looking further out into the lake, I saw men in mokoros fishing for the myriad of fish that called this place home. I idly drifted my legs back and forth to gently propel myself along and luxuriated in the moment.
There was no place I had to go. There was nothing pressing that I had to do. I did not even have to worry about what to scrounge up for dinner, as Joey was presenting us with seafood crepes that evening. Later, he would trek across the sandy expanse from the kitchen to our hut, with delightful home-made cuisine on a covered silver platter, but right now there was just me and a serenity that I cherished with all my heart. The warm heart of Africa had stolen mine.

Joey’s Seafood Crepes (for one)

·         2 small eggs
·         ¾  cup flour
·         Pinch of salt
·         ¾  cup  milk
·         1 tsp baking powder
·         1 Tbsp oil

*Beat the eggs until smooth, then add flour and salt stirring
*Add milk and oil until smooth
*cook crepes and set aside

Filling:
·         Cut-up pieces of kampango or chambo (fish)
·         1 clove of Garlic
·         1 cup of milk
·         1 Tbsp of cheese (white sauce)
·         1 ½ Tbsp butter
·         1 medium onion

*Fry fish and set aside(can substitute chicken or meat)
*Cook remaining ingredients, then add fish back in and simmer for 10-15 min
*pour filling onto crepe, wrap it up and serve

Delicious!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reworked Dreams

Starving
Drunken Corpses
Wandering shadows of men

I see you staring at yesterday
Streaks of obsession mold you
Leave you old - dead words

Your belonging is gone
Now imagined
A past dream

Today,  a gray face
Slashed fingers grasping
The coin has rolled away

Scabbed hearts
And flaccid minds
Are all that caress you now

Tomorrow
What means Tomorrow
-Heaven in a grave cold.

     ^^^
This poem was written many years ago. Re-reading it now, I would perhaps move words around, change them up or maybe even scrap it altogether. It was actually even a re-writing of another older poem that I had written entitled Tomorrow. I don't have the date on Tomorrow (I tended to put dates on poems even then with dreams of the legacy I would leave), but I believe it was written in 1992. Reworked Dreams was written in April, 1995.

I highlight it here today, as this was the first poem I had published. For me it was so exciting at the time. I guess it still is, although I have since read that the tome that it was published in was nothing more than a sham. I was young and goggle-eyed with thoughts of seeing my name in the printed form, and bought into their "competition". The National Library of Poetry seemed to publish everything that was sent to them though (regardless of merit I have since read), but the kicker was the buying of the book that it would appear in. Of course I bought a copy of Shadows and Light. I even got a notification that I was in the top 3% of entries, therefore receiving an Editor's Choice award. Wow!

The burst bubble didn't hurt that bad though. While it is disappointing that there wasn't any teeth behind their competitions, that amounted to nothing more than book promotions, the experience stayed with me. It helped to push me and keep me writing. I have a little book that has my poems in it written since as far back as 1991. I can see progression in my writing, but even better, can see that my muse has been with me for a long time. I still might not become a big, famous poet, but I can look back with pride in my will to create. For that is the heart of writing in my books.

I want to thank One Stop Poetry for the prompt today. They suggested telling them where we began our poetry career. I suspect that the stories of the myriad of poets that are out there hold some fascinating reading in themselves. My story started in my teens, but has carried through the years with encouragement from occasional writing contests, well-received poems for friends and family in greeting cards, my own personal drive to get the words running through my head down on paper, and of course my blog. It might not wow anybody, but getting this poem published was another huge affirmation for me that this was what I wanted to do. And I am doing it.

Saturday's Email of the Week: Almost Wet Myself Laughing

Ok, I have read this before, but I was seriously howling when I read this one. It came from my uncle, who is trying to push himself through a painful anniversary this week. Obviously someone else felt that he needed a laugh too.

Enjoy!


ONLY A MAN
WOULD ATTEMPT THIS

            Pocket Tazer Stun Gun, a great gift for the wife.

A guy who purchased his lovely wife a pocket Tazer for their anniversary submitted this:

Last weekend I saw something at Larry's Pistol & Pawn Shop that sparked my interest. The occasion was our 15th anniversary and I was looking for a little something extra for my wife Julie. What I came across was a 100,000-volt, pocket/purse-sized Tazer.

The effects of the Tazer were supposed to be short lived, with no long term adverse affect on your assailant, allowing her adequate time to retreat to safety....??

WAY TOO COOL! Long story short, I bought the device and brought it home... I loaded two AAA batteries in the darn thing and pushed the button. Nothing! I was disappointed. I learned, however, that if I pushed the button and pressed it against a metal surface at the same time, I'd get the blue arc of electricity darting back and forth between the prongs.

AWESOME!!! Unfortunately, I have yet to explain to Julie what that burn spot is on the face of her microwave.

Okay, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that it couldn't be all that bad with only two AAA batteries, right?

There I sat in my recliner, my cat Gracie looking on intently (trusting little soul) while I was reading the directions and thinking that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh & blood moving target.

I must admit I thought about zapping Gracie (for a fraction of a second) and then thought better of it. She is such a sweet cat. But, if I was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised.

Am I wrong?

So, there I sat in a pair of shorts and a tank top with my reading glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one hand, and Tazer in another.

The directions said that:
a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant;

a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a major loss of bodily control; and

a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of water.

Any burst longer than three seconds would be wasting the batteries.
All the while I'm looking at this little device measuring about 5" long, less than 3/4 inch in circumference (loaded with two itsy, bitsy AAA batteries); pretty cute really, and thinking to myself, 'no possible way!'

What happened next is almost beyond description, but I'll do my best.

I'm sitting there alone, Gracie looking on with her head cocked to one side so as to say, 'Don't do it stupid,' reasoning that a one second burst from such a tiny lil ole thing couldn't hurt all that bad.. I decided to give myself a one second burst just for heck of it.

I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and...

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. WHAT THE... !!!

I'm pretty sure Hulk Hogan ran in through the side door, picked me up in the recliner, then body slammed us both on the carpet, over and over and over again. I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the fetal position, with tears in my eyes, body soaking wet, both nipples on fire, testicles nowhere to be found, with my left arm tucked under my body in the oddest position, and tingling in my legs! The cat was making meowing sounds I had never heard before, clinging to a picture frame hanging above the fireplace, obviously in an attempt to avoid getting slammed by my body flopping all over the living room.

Note:
If you ever feel compelled to 'mug' yourself with a Tazer,
one note of caution:

There is NO such thing as a one second burst when you zap yourself! You will not let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor!
A three second burst would be considered conservative!

A minute or so later (I can't be sure, as time was a relative thing at that point), I collected my wits (what little I had left), sat up and surveyed the landscape.
  • My bent reading glasses were on the mantel of the fireplace.
  • The recliner was upside down and about 8 feet or so from where it originally was.
  • My triceps, right thigh and both nipples were still twitching.
  • My face felt like it had been shot up with Novocain, and my bottom lip weighed 88 lbs.
  • I had no control over the drooling..
  • Apparently I had crapped in my shorts, but was too numb to know for sure, and my sense of smell was gone.
  • I saw a faint smoke cloud above my head, which I believe came from my hair.
I'm still looking for my testicles and I'm offering a significant reward for their safe return!

PS: My wife can't stop laughing about my experience, loved the gift and now regularly threatens me with it!

If you think education is difficult, try being stupid!!!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Writing of an Adventure

Just over a year ago a thought crossed my mind for a story idea. It started like this;

   "Once upon a time, a young woman sat waiting for the call."

The story featured a young woman who was on the road to adventure. At the beginning she wasn't very excited about it. I wasn't sure if I would have anyone interested in her story either.

The first comment I received on the post was this though;

   Me said...


     You forgot to write: "To be continued..."
         You *are* going to continue, right? ;)

    And continue I did.

    Since that first warm reception, I went on to add 55 more excerpts to the story I began on February 12, 2010. While the story started in the style of a fiction piece, and a few wondered if this was a dream of mine, by the fourth excerpt I let my readers in on the fact that this was indeed a true story. In fact, the story was my own.

    In case you haven't followed any of it, the story is of my travels through Africa several years ago. It took a few entries to test the water and see if my story was worth sharing, but it has been obvious to me that it has. Friends have been awed by my adventure, grossed out by the food I ate, and worried for my security in dangerous situations. Lovely visitors have thrilled me by sharing that my tale has been passed along to curious family and friends. Others have expressed jealousy at my far-flung adventures, wishing that they could claim the experiences as their own. I take it all as compliments and allow it to fuel the fire in my brain to keep the story flowing.

    When I first started writing of my travels, the entries were sporadic. I began with a burst of writing, with excerpts three days in a row, then slowly tapered off. Some weeks I posted two days in a row, other times it would be almost two weeks between adventures. On average though, I continued my story about once a week.

    In 2011, I decided to give myself a schedule for my tale. You see I was gone for ten months, so my story holds many adventures in its pages. Some particularly gripping tales have even required two or three entries to conclude a section of the tale. As of January, I decided that I would post once a week and selected Monday as a good day to fly across the world for a spell of African Adventure.

    You know what I am personally loving about all of this though? Aside from the fact that the telling of the tale is helping to hone my writing skills, I am loving stepping back into this adventure. My wandering ways are like a pleasant dream from another lifetime ago. It is so hard to imagine myself as this girl sometimes, but indeed it was. Life has held many other adventures since then, many not nearly as pleasant, but many moreso. As I re-read the journals I kept during my wanders through Africa, I step right back into the pages of that life. This winter with wind howling outside my window, I have walked the African savannah, awed by the animals just outside arms reach. The dry African heat has warmed my soul, despite the deep-freeze outside my door. As soon as I open my journal to read a few sentences, I find myself smiling. I am no longer in this chair at this desk, but rather half a world away and gone more than a lifetime ago.

    What I do have to thank you lovely people for though is your support in all of this. This story has been aching to be written for many years. I believe that I came home knowing that I would write of my adventures one day, but never guessed that it would take this long to come to fruition. I even started the tale several years back, but quickly lost the drive to continue. Finding this venue for my tale has been exactly what I needed though. I write in snapshots, filtered through my journals and through my life since then. I try to stay true to the tales, but know that small details can be added or removed not harming the telling of my story. The snapshots I capture within a blog post are perfect though. I can build drama, paint pictures and be informative, all within the confines of several hundred words. The pictures in my mind will always be mine, but in the sharing, they come alive all over again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sweet Day, but Winter's Not Done Yet

I puddle jumped my way through the day today. Slopped over mushy snow banks and avoided skidding through stop signs. All with a smile knowing that these were signs that Spring was on the way.

But really?

Seeing two guys sauntering across Richmond St. in shorts and t-shirts is just too much for me yet.




*My mucklucks are still on my feet, scarf around my neck and hat planted firmly on my head for this Flash 55. It is February and there is snow in the 7-day forecast. I am not putting my winter gear away yet...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

survive

Wednesday.
Esoteric music plays in my ear.
A child has a hard time settling.
(Remember that in the morning when she does not want to rise)
Breathe. Be.
Sigh...

fingers let the trembling of the drum fade out of them
a hurting soul soaked in our healing rhythms.
well, more than one.
but one with pain writ in eyes, skin
and tremor that only those that know
can see.

Beats continue to heal me, but
most days I am strong enough to give back.
tonight's hurts were for the physical pain of new visitor
the emotional strain of a caregiver,
and another,
and another...

My offerings are of love
compassion that flows from pores
and sparkles with tender remembrances.
I taste their strain
and wish to blow those days
away on wings of tomorrow's sunrise

Away
on wings of a journey spent
A path trod rough and broken
with tertiary gardens askance
sown with bitter tears
of love's tragedy.

A new day,
new sunrise
sprinkled with dust
from fairy's hopeful wand
and filled life of dry gardens
with new, unbeknownst, yet mystical flowers

Spring blooms
on seeds of belief
and life's delight
as my dark night,
dim determinations and
stubborn blossoms survive


*I linked in to the very tale end of One Show Wednesday 
& think I just might throw in a link to Imperfect Prose

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Was it you?

Ok, which one of you came into my world sniffling?

I was awake at 5AM, blasted out of sleep for a breathe. I rolled over and found myself completely congested. No amount of blowing could dislodge the snuffles. Now I sit here mouth-breathing and waiting for my chicken noodle soup to come ready.

BLAH


I don't care how much sunshine is outside.
My nose is getting raw and I don't like it.
-Pooh-

*
mouth breathing monster
with lemon-scented thought balloons
grumpy for the day
*

Monday, February 14, 2011

Carved Delights

A constant buzz filled my ears as I wound my way through the stalls. Chickens clucked in the dirt, waiting to be plucked and stuffed into giant woks and served with nsima (the local version of a corn porridge). I had eaten enough of it to find it palatable, only as long as it came with the ever-present tomato and onion sauce that was found everywhere in southern Africa.
 And thank God I liked tomatoes, as the small fruit were one of the few things that were prevalent. Onions and eggplants were also readily apparent in little triangular hills on top of rickety wooden stalls or worse, balanced precariously on a piece of plywood resting atop an over-turned bucket. Mixed with rice and the luxury of salt and pepper, a feast was to be had any night.
For protein, beef seemed always to be tough and pork non-existent, so beans and peanut butter filled the niche. A rare treat of fresh fish infused my vegetarian style diet, but I grew lumpy on the starchy staples that were my fare. Always a good reason to dive into Lake Malawi to swim off a meal or two.
While I did pick up our staple tomatoes to fill our backpacking larder, this shopping trip was centered on a more cultural note. Leaving the greasy stands and piles of glass coke bottles behind, I walked further into the market in search of wood carvings. I did not need the Bob Marley tapes, and while tempted by local tinny music blaring from ancient ghetto blasters, I walked on.
This is where I fell in love. Wooden carved bowls, figures of men, tables, and of course the famous chief’s chairs. They were exquisite and I wanted one of them all. The detailed facial features carved into the dark hardwood were incredible. Elephants, zebras and a wide variety of other animals carefully decorated the backs of chairs. I had no idea how I would be able to narrow down my search for the perfect table, but the first challenge was to not look interested.
A white face amongst a sea of black stands out pretty obviously though. “Sistah, sistah!” were the calls that followed me as I sauntered down the long line of wood carvers’ stalls. Their wares were lined up on the dirt, but their perfection was not marred. My eyes flicked from the intricately carved women balancing parcels on their heads, to ferocious lions snarling their threats. What to choose, I pondered?
Bartering was part of the business though and I stealed myself to try and drive a hard bargain. Who was I to kid anyone though. If you paused too long in front of a stall, a young man would jump up and put a giraffe in your hand and throw a price in your ear. A sparkle of an eye would have the salesman encouraging you to sit in the sturdy luxury of an enormous chief’s chair, no matter that it would have to be transported back home to Canada. My mission was one of the delicate tables that had caught my fancy though. Three long legs carved from a single piece of wood were entwined in the middle and served as a tripod for a flat, round top. I had to have one.
I walked up and down the stalls, lingering here, smiling at a seller’s antics there, but returned to a little stall with some beautiful tables that called to me. The smell of money was strong on me and I casually asked the price of a table with elephants circling the perimeter of its surface. Valiantly, I attempted to feign surprise and shock at the inflated prices, but secretly would have paid whatever number of kwacha was demanded for the artwork. Having shown interest though, now I was committed.
After a small amount of numbers were thrown back and forth, we finally came to an agreement. Done with haggling, I beamed at my new table and small chief’s chair that had been thrown into the deal. The chair would be a wonderful souvenir for my young cousin back home, but the table was all mine. I counted out 600 kwacha (the equivalent of about $60CAD at the time), while the seller gathered up cardboard to package my purchases in. With newspaper wrapped around it all, I headed to the post office, filled out umpteen forms and mailed my precious souvenirs home, hoping that I would find them in one piece when I eventually made it there myself. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

To Uncle's House We Go

To Uncle’s house we go
O’er farmer’s field
past orchards cold
to forgotten arms we flow

Spoiled with treats
perhaps toys
&  gingerbread dreams
-best is kin that greets


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Email of the Week: Too funny not to share

WRONG E-MAIL ADDRESS

This one is priceless...A lesson to be learned from typing the wrong email address!!!!

A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida to thaw out during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon.

Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel schedules. So, the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying down the following day.

The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an email to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without realizing his error, sent the email.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston , a widow had just returned home from her husband's funeral. He was a minister who was called home to glory following a heart attack.

The widow decided to check her email expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted.

The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read:




To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I've Arrived
Date: October 16, 2009

I know you're surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones. I've just arrived and have been checked in.

I've seen that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then!!!! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

P. S. Sure is really hot down here!



Friday, February 11, 2011

The path walked

The path  walked
wholly unique and
Mine

full of choices
for fate and me
The path walked

decisions made
right, sometimes wrong
Mine

with circumstance and
purposeful steps
The path  walked

leading through this,
life’s journey
Mine

Forever’s eternal eyes
Offering it all to the ethers, this
The path  walked
Mine.

~

It's Friday.
I remembered that a certain young man
hosted a certain gathering
regarding a certain number of words

Aha, with words writ
and formed into a villanelle
(of all things)
 [- my first attempt at the form so go easy on me]
I head back to work 
at the rest of my day.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Handful of Haikus

Grief
tears do not shatter
the reality awake
only smooth the edge
   ^^     

Soul Jam
we offer sound
for ourselves and other souls
unaware of gifts
><

Deliverance
my hands have delivered
a small gift of sound
with tears
<>

It is Wednesday. 
Best day of the week to sit back and read poetry.
Check out the folks at One Shot
for their weekly Wednesday treat
and if it so tickles you
throw in some verse yourself
~

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SEO- Getting to Know my Stuff

A whirlwind is whipping around in my head. I spent the morning discussing social media with a friend who is looking to expand his presence in the world wide web. We talked blog talk and I fear I stuffed his brain to overflowing. He looked at me with shock, perhaps awe, and definitely incredulity at what I was saying. I talked about widgets, tags, posts, comments, SEO,  and touched on how it all affects your presence on the web. For every post you put out and the frequency you put it out there, the higher you rank in search engine finds. It makes sense, but there are so many ways to spin anything you do. When you start it seems huge. When you have been doing it for a while, it still seems huge. I know that the more I know, the more I realize that I have so much more to learn.

What I found interesting in talking to a friend about social media was how much I really DO know. I am also taking a writing course and last week we interviewed classmates. The gentleman that interviewed me is formulating his interview about me and my writing, and my presence on the internet. Questions like, "How long have you been maintaining your blog?", "How does the social community you have linked up with affect your writing?", and "Who is your audience for your blog?" were posed. All good questions that made me think.

And what did I think about, you ask? Well, I started this blog almost two years ago, but only started to hit a bit of a stride just over a year ago. The more I interact with others in the blogosphere and social media networking sites, the more I learn and grow. Participating in various memes, like Magpie Tales, Monkey Man's Sunday 160, G-Man's Flash Fiction Friday, or my favourite poetry day at One Shot Wednesday, really challenges me as a writer to write, write, write. Sometimes the challenge is to write in a certain number of words or characters. This has helped me to let go of flowery words that really don't always help my writing. Visiting picture prompt sites gives me inspiration to write in my own voice, but taken from a specific angle. One Shot is an excellent home to search other poets and learn new styles  and just read lots of great poetry, plus the bonus of potentially having people come and view my own poetry. More comments means that perhaps people have really liked what I have written. Sometimes people will comment on specific lines that have jumped out at them that they have really liked. That tells me that I am doing something right. Other times, I have had the joy of having new followers, and that helps to build up the old confidence meter a notch or two. That means I have done something right either more than once, or at the very least, I have done one thing REALLY good and my readers feel that there is a high potential for me to do that again. Both good things in my books.

You out there in the blog-o-sphere know all of this yourself. I have read many a post of people looking for visitors, hoping for comments and growing from the regular comments and support that is received in this world that we blog in. That support keeps on bringing us back again and again. Every time we write, we get better at our craft. This truly is a craft as well. We are writers, poets, and creative beings coming together. For every site I visit, I push your SEO numbers higher and in turn my own. Looking back over my many hours spent blogging, I am happy with where I have come. My writing is better, my confidence is better, and my presence just keeps growing. I will still have my down days, those days when the cursor blinks and nary a word is to be found, but the look of awe helps me to see that maybe I do have a smidgen of expertise in this field. That is something to give myself kudos for. And you as well my bloggy friends. We are in this together, and together we rise.

Write on my friends. Write on...

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Magic of the Lake

Brett and I left Blantyre and headed to Cape Maclear. It had been described in glowing terms, and I hoped it would live up to the hype. It would be our first encounter with Lake Malawi. Being a land-locked country, Lake Malawi was an integral feature of this small sub-tropical nation. Also known as Lake Nyasa, the lake runs three quarters of the length of Malawi, at 587km (365 miles) long and 84km (52 miles) wide. And truly, it is beautiful to behold.
The magic of Malawi settled over me in gentle waves. The lure of Lake Malawi was palpable. Its soft waves were forever within hearing distance, if not in sight. The people were friendly with a simple air about them that lent them a most desirable quality. This was probably the poorest nation I had been to, perhaps barring parts of Mozambique, but the people were amongst the richest in attitude. Was it the sunshine? The proximity to soothing waters? Or was it the lack of Aid organizations that brought with them handouts, that in turn turned the people into beggars. Here people were happy with their lot in life and it showed in their eyes that sparkled despite lack of material wealth. Their peace was infectious.
Our first taste of the magic of the waters was from a seat in a mokoro (a hand-carved dug-out canoe of sorts). They were narrower than the mokoros that I had lazed in on the Okavengo Delta, but still a marvel. Brett and I got a couple of locals to row us out to Pemba Island, where we spent the day snorkeling in the blue waters. We spied a myriad of fish, as we slowly paddled about on our leisurely adventure. Lunch was a feast of rice, potatoes, tomatoes and fish that had been caught as Brett and I swam. Simple, but excellent. Dessert of a special banana cake sent us over the moon and topped off a perfect day to soak up the beauty of Malawi.
We spent three nights in Cape Maclear. On our last night, I accompanied a young man to Ba’blue, a small local bar. He introduced me to the game of Bao. It is a local mancala game where beans are moved around a board from a series of dugout holes. You play against an opponent, trying to steal their beans (or whatever the markers are) until you have all of them. Everywhere you looked, a game was being played. Always keen to learn a new game, I insisted on trying to pick up the rules. I loved it and before we left, I had my very own bao game stuffed into my backpack, as we headed off to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tired

So
Tired.
Full of visits,
Disney songs,
Excited children.
All hyped up by cousin’s
play with squeals as
they  chased  the
poor cat, who’s
now asleep,
as should
be I.

Yawn


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Disney On Ice



Taking kids to Disney on Ice!

Disney On Ice

~A post for Six Word Saturday~


Just a quick note, as I should be putting the last of the clutter in the kitchen away. My sister and her family are coming into town to join us. My brother-in-law's parents are accompanying them as well, so I really should get back to work. I hope you have a great Saturday!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day


Sweet reminder for
the day that groundhogs predict
Spring shall soon arrive 
~


late on Wednesday
but inspired to write quick
and join One Shot Team

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Weather Forecast

storm rattles windows
fat flakes freeze across my face
no shadows for spring?

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Tomorrow is Groundhog day. That means that Wiarton Willie is supposed to come out of his hole and look around. If he sees his shadow, he is supposed to scurry back into his hole and hibernate, leading us to six more weeks of winter. With no shadow, conceivably he should be more comfortable and therefore stick around to check out the outside world. The ordained meaning of this is that spring is right around the corner.

Well, checking out weather reports that are flying across radio airwaves, as well as other forms of media information, I suspect that dear Willie will not be leaving his hole at all. With Blizzard warnings in effect and 25-35cm of snow forecasted, Willie's hole is going to be buried pretty deep. A toasty warm burrow is where I will be hunkered in tomorrow, but I will listen to see what Willie has to say. 

What think you? Is there any end in sight to this Winter?


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