November Rain

Holy Daughter dressed as Snoopy the Red Baron - Halloween night

Holy Daughter dressed as Ugly Betty - Halloween Day

What a busy month. Whew.

I haven't been blogging nor journaling nor writing much - just mostly handling what's in front of me and taking this time to be introspective. The daily grind of listening to economic and mortgage doom & gloom as yet more crumbling pillars of corporate society take their place in the ever-growing soup kitchen line and beg for change, not to mention reading of certain disillusioned voters who are already quick to blame Obama before he's even taken office ~ it's all made me want to tune out of the whole blame game.

My personal favorite though is the Palin lovers, whose continued devotion to her has this stomach bug of mine sticking around longer than normal. It just serves to remind that the only normal is of the snafu variety.

Creation Theory
I've been up to my assets in alligators with studying creativity this fall. The fine art of it as well as my place in it. More on that later. In the midst of all this creative thinking, I wrote a kid's book, which I plan to market here in the near future. Sung to the tune of this little bookie went to market. Wish me luck...and a Newbery Honor.

I've also been pretty busy this fall spearheading my Artist's Way group at church. Our 12-week journey is almost complete and it has gone really well. I gauge this success based on the fact that I have only had 3 drop out - one because she felt too young, and the other two because of work demands. Given the intense, psycho-therapeutic nature of this work, having only 3 drop out is rather amazing. The other nine ladies have proven to be very committed to the journey and we have become a very close-knit group of creative types.

My job, apart from keeping us on task and on time with our verbal sharing and insights, has been to come up with creative exercises during the second half of our sessions, based on whatever the chapter theme happened to be. And so, in the course of the past several weeks, I have schemed various activities ~ ranging from drawing our muses, to making shadow self tarot cards, to playing an art auction game, to making play-doh gifts ~ to this past week's activity for the theme of Self-Protection, which involved creating a recipe for creative living card and asked them to come back with all the necessary ingredients and a way-forward list of instructions for how they can begin to manifest this in their daily lives.

This was my art auction creation, Tutti Fruiti - I decided to buy her back.

Said recipe for creative living is not to be confused with the cutesy, sprinkle in a dash of joy and add a pinch of variety and spice crap that you see in vile, errr virile e-mails. These recipes are more abstract and methodical, and are very much personal statements that resonate with each individual "concerning all acts of initiative" and creativity.

I have a more general instruction list for living that I've created for myself but I've noticed - because I stare at it each day such that I'm reminded when I am or am not living my list - that I haven't been heeding the first rule on my personal instruction list (a.k.a. the holy grail, secret to my universe stuff that got thrown out with my placental matter but has since been reclaimed in the netherlands of interplanetary, most extraordinary lost and found).

My first rule is to breathe.

How many short shallow breaths can a person take before they finally have to stop and, in Cheech and Chong "oh wow, man" fashion, breathe in the big kahuna? It will be nice for time to tick slower this week. I love how Americans have carved out this entire week practically, where life comes to a virtual halt. People are remiss to schedule things on the Monday and Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving, or so I've noticed. And that's fine by me.

Many Happy Returns
Holy Son played in his last soccer game of the season and scored a goal. That was a big deal. He's usually good for one a season, but not always. He mostly plays defense and has yet to really hone his offensive skills. He's almost a foot taller than some of his teammates, so it's a different game watching him run those long strides of his across the field with the ball.

He's gearing up for his jazz band concert tonight ~ last week was orchestra (yes, he's both a jazz spaz and an orch dork). That means we scrap Irish Dance and Scouts and watch him be the bass guitar dude. And he is beginning to look like a dude. Scraggly, shaggy blondish hair that spends most of its time in his eyes. He likes to brush it forward. He thinks the look becomes him. I fantasize about getting the clippers out in the middle of the night and shaving it all off.

He turns 12 this week, and as usual, we have to ownplay-day the age-ay ing-thay in front of all his 13 year old friends. Even though he towers over all of them and runs circles around them socially. Middle schoolers amuse me. I'm at his school every day to pick him up so I get my fair share of seeing them in the action. He's mostly oblivious to all the groupies he has until an adult happens to point it out. Like his former International Studies teacher, who is fond of stopping me in the hallway and pointing out conspiratorially, how my son "always has girls around him. They follow him everywhere!"

But as I say, he's clueless to the attention. He has one particular girl that he likes. I saw her in the school play. She is exactly his "type: - tall, leggy, long blondish hair and is 12 going on 22. He asked her to the upcoming Snowflake dance and she's all excited. She wants them to dress matching - she'll wear a bright fuschia dress and she's hoping he'll wear a matching fuschia tie. I said welcome to the world of girls, buddy. He bought her a snowflake necklace and his all excited to give it to her that night. Age eleven and already a player.

Cheater, Cheater
Holy Daughter has her own drama. She's been hanging with a certain boy in class who is the son of one of the most senior elected officials in this state. They are just friends, of course, but the whole class teases them about their chumminess. He's very smitten with her, on account of her being an animated, fearless and captivating extrovert. And she's extremely amused by him. He confessed to her that he was going to vote for Obama, despite his father being a staunch Republican. And he admitted that he stuffed the ballot box with 11 dirty ballots during their class Halloween contest. She thought that was pretty funny. So did I. If his father only knew.

She had a meltdown last week and decided that she's just way too busy with too many extra-curricular activities. Mwah-ha-ha. My evil plan is working. I've been desperate to dump a couple of these for awhile now. Brownies will likely end this year. I'm not sure we'll carry on but we'll have to see how that goes. It's only once every couple of weeks and is right after school, so that one is no biggie. And soccer season is over now, thankfully. That one was 2-3 times a week, although we never did make both weekly practices. The problem with dropping something like soccer is that it's the only aerobic exercise kids that age get. Gym is only once a week for 1/2 an hour and they usually only end up doing lame games and activities.

Ballet is the big issue. She wants to drop it. She isn't enjoying it, mostly because it's so repetitive and her instructor, the studio owner, is always a no-show. Ballet is the one activity I'd like to see her hang onto for awhile longer. She's agreed to see this through until the Nutcracker performance is over and then in the new year, switch studios to a more challenging class and see how that goes.

But during her meltdown she confessed that she's cool with dropping Irish dance, and that tickles me. Irish dance requires insanely high leaps and kicks, neither of which she's been able to muster to a competitive degree. And competition is where it's at in Irish dancing, unfortunately. Not to mention that it's pricey and we're at that stage of having to invest in soft and hard shoes, both of which can be awfully expensive. So, I'm holding the vision that by the new year, Irish dancing will be a thing of the past in this house.

Pumpkin Eater
Time has flown since Canadian Thanksgiving. I'm so glad we're not doing the turkey and pie thing again. This year for Thanksgiving, we're heading to our church potluck. It's a great way to be in community with our 'fellow Americans' and best of all, have an opportunity to enjoy the fun and feast without having to deal with a huge kitchen mess.

I'm grateful for the time to relax a moment or two. It's been a hectic fall with little time to chill out and breathe. Big fat sigh.


Tributes, Memories & Milestones

Flowery Tributes
We honoured the 11th hour of this 11th day in this 11th month, as we have like clockwork, these past four years, by singing our national anthem, humming God Save the Queen and paying tearful, televised tribute to our war heroes, alive and dead for the annual and auspicious occasion of the 90th anniversary of Armistice this Remembrance Day 2008.

I don't like having to explain to the children this year what a poppy is and why they should wear it. It's one of the many small sacrifices of identity we make as ex-pats, I suspect. The kids easily spell favorite and think nothing of it. They say zee instead of zed but at least have the good grace to look at my guiltily when they do it. They're forgetting so much about Canada so soon and this makes me want to cry.

Holy Daughter pinned her poppy on her Brownie vest yesterday and she and her troop trekked off to the local Veteran's Hospital to sing songs, present cards and in her case, hand out poppies to the Veterans. It was amazing that some of the veterans recognized the significance of the poppy and were touched. It's not something Americans honour although of course, at Armistice and Remembrance Day celebrations elsewhere around the world, it's universally recognized as the symbol of peace reborn in the killing fields.

I used to have 'In Flanders Fields' committed to memory. Time and complacency have since dusted it from my childhood closets.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae

Holy Daughter said she felt this warm glow feeling in her stomach at having visited the Veteran's and personally thanked them for their service to this country. She watched the CBC ceremony on television this morning and wondered aloud at why there was so much French being spoken. And I'll admit - it seemed a bit much today - or so it seemed to this Westerner who has never found the bilingual cloak to be all that comfortable and fitting. But it was great to be able to see Canada's last WWI vet pass the torch via the big screen from the comforts of his living room to the vets and active soldiers alike of the wars that followed, up to and including Afghanistan.

Holy Son is off at an all-day Scout training day this Veteran's Day - he's not wearing his uniform but he does have his poppy pinned upon his scout t-shirt, for what it's worth. I asked him to break for a minute of silence at 11am. He said, "But Mom!" And I just did the raised-eyebrow thing and affected my no-blink, no-compromise stare.

Such is the plight of young foreigners on American soil ~ that they should have to be subjected to their parents weird homeland rituals that bear little meaning and relevance to their own Americanized lives.

I am only a fraction of the way into my Nanowrimo Rebel project - I got a little derailed by Holy Daughter's art project, soccer, Irish dance performance and Nutcracker rehearsals this past weekend, but I hope to get back in the loop this week.

My book is sectioned off into three parts - I, Don't and Know - the 'I' section is my 14 predominant roles or archetypes in life, the 'Know' part shall be my so-called wisdom text of 14 epiphanies and the 'Don't' section is my negative precept tales ~ it's the one I've been most sluggish about.

Case in point: today I'm going to tackle Pee...as in Don't Pee....which shall be my prosaic witness to a most embarrassing and debilitating time in my teenagehood ~ having LBS (leaky bladder syndrome). Whenever I see a teen girl wear a hoodie wrapped around her waist, I pause to wonder if she too suffers the same ailment I once did. Of course, now there's Depend. :) Not that incontinent teens, with their low-rise jeans and g-string underwear would be prone to wanting to sport a granny diaper. But I was desperate enough back then that I might have considered something, had I known there was an option. It would be a long time before I finally went in for bladder surgery. Proactive medical concern was not a family strong suit. We were nothing if not nuclear reactive.

Holy Hub flew home to Deadmonchuk over the weekend and drove his Pa's old pick-up truck back. It was loaded to the rafters with trash and treasure alike and a supply of poppies that will see us through the next few years.

Some of the treasures included a custom-framed Norman Rockwell needlework image Grandma Schmidt had made for Holy Son, Grossmutti's old grandfather clock, ceramic and metalwork candlesticks Holy Hub had made in his distant youth, retro train sets, and a great old Swiss trunk from the 1930s. We have nowhere to put some of this stuff so there it sits in our dining room and entryway, biding its time 'til it might find a more permanent home. Somewhere sometime.

Speaking of some who, what, where, when, why's, I'm preparing to launch my new year vision. Consider this my pre-launch party. My 2009 life vision theme is New Gold Dream: The Siren & the Ecstacy.

It seemed appropriate to pick a Simple Minds tune, first and foremost, because it will take a beginner mind vision of innocence and risk to pull this off. And also because the song and arguably the album, New Gold Dream, speaks to an era - 81,82,83,84 when I experienced one of the most profound archetypal deaths and rebirths. On this, the 25th anniversary of the end of that era, I think it's time to die again, in order that I might be give birth to a new gilded me.

Back in October of 2006, I blogged about this very song in reference to both my once upon a time and someday dreams. Here's the once upon a distant future day dreams I constructed that day:

  1. Someday strutting in a parade with the Red Hot Mamas ~ as an update, I did get to strut in the St. Paddy's Day parade with a bunch of Red Hot Mamas but yes, my parade dream is still largely alive, well and raring to strut her stuff
  2. Writing and self-publishing a children's book - here ye, here ye. I actually wrote a children's book last Thursday -voila! just like that - and am officially going on record here to announce that I am going to be shopping my manuscript to worthy publishers - the golden-tinge to this dream is that I hope to one day earn a Newbery and/or Caldecott honour for said achievements. Or die trying, anyways.
  3. Embarking on a six-month sabbatical as a family to a far-flung place in order to assist with an international aid project ~ this dream is fast approaching a need for speed, on account of Holy Daughter being in 3rd and Holy Son being in 7th grade. Time ticks, carpe diem and all that jazz.
  4. Finally learning to draw and paint ~ I've been flirting more and more with both of these but my inner chicken is Foghorn Leghorn in size and formidabishnish.
  5. Visiting as many key mystical and ancient civilization sites as time, money and energy will permit in this lifetime - I've been to a few but not nearly as many as I would like. Machu Picchu still beckons.
  6. Becoming a dragon boat racer ~ this one always ends up on next year's resolution list. Sad but true.
  7. Learning to breathe and meditate ~ a did a teeny, tiny bit of meditation this year but I still haven't jumped in with both feet, save vicariously, when I sent Holy Daughter away to a Vipassana retreat this past summer.
  8. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with Holy Hub one day ~ this would be very cool. Holy Son and Hub made a pact the other night that they were going to crack open a 38 year old bottle of Canadian Club whiskey on a Mt. Rainier outing on or near 2014. I should maybe see if we change this up to be a family pass-the-cup affair in the wilds of Africa. Not that packing a flash of whiskey all the way to Africa would be easy but who said life was easy?!
  9. Owning a vacation cottage or cabin in the mountains ~ still haven't made good on this, my most ardent dream. Shame on me. 'Nuff said.
  10. Writing my memoir ~ this is finally in the works!

It's funny as in remarkable that this top 10 list still vibes with me. Dragon boat racing could easily substitute for some other physical challenge or pursuit - a marathon or long pilgrimage hike could easily suffice, too. But apart from that - this remains my bucket list.

I'm pleased to verify that I've begun to act on some of these dreams, while keeping others in the forefront of my consciousness during these tricky, recessionary times.

Let it be known for the record though: 2009 is the year I guide, stride and high-tide them.

So on that note, I'll re-quote here the sage words I noted for posterity in my October '06 blog post.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the blowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in the your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Mark Twain


The Killers Are Coming!

Oh happy happy day on so many level, beginning with the post-election high hopes and ending with 107.7 The End's Deck the Hall Ball bash which I totally forgot about... now that I have satellite radio and never listen to regular radio anymore. Sigh.

So it turns out The Killers are coming and I didn't even know it. Talk about a sheltered life. So I'm taking Holy Son as a belated 12th b-day present - he doesn't know it yet - and Shiny Toy Guns and Death Cab for Cutie will be playing, as well.

Can't wait. It'll be the 25th anniversary year of when I used to hang out at concerts like this...I know what you're thinking...that was back when you were young, Holy. Yup. Still am. I'll have the concert tee to prove it, too!

In other Schmidt happenings, we have a new office desk suite. It took a year of shopping for me to find the color I was happy with to match the dark mahogany stain of our office futon arms. In the meantime, we were using Holy Hub's small kiddie desk from when he was 7. Kinda small and the drawers had this funky 60s smell - you know, the kinda odor that old furniture likes to give off. And it was just getting, well, old.

Craziness. The new stuff is not a perfect match nor is it swanky by any stretch - the furniture is a tad darker but it'll have to do. Best thing about this furniture is not the quality - it's mdf or some other such high quality pressboard - it's that it's made for small home offices and it's no-tool building. Everything snaps together. Kinda nifty. Not that Holy Hub thought so. Putting office furniture together and untangling computer cords was not on his priority list on election night, which comes two nights before he flies back to Edmonton on his whirlwind Keep on Trucking weekend (he's bringing his Dad's pick-up back across the border). But thankfully, it was a tool free and painless experience and he's a light packer.

Anyhoo, onwards, upwards. We've successfully torn down Halloween. I still have to get pictures posted. The power switch on our stand-alone computer decided to call it quits just as we were moving it around a bit. So it'll be awhile before I get pics posted. Holy Daughter looked priceless as Snoopy the Red Baron. I heart eBay...we picked up three great Snoopy masks in October online. I'm thinking of getting into ditching some stuff on Craigslist and eBay in the next few months.

In other news, we're all banding together in the house to support Holy Son on his Mr. Schmidt Goes to Washington project, which will be his option week trip next spring. He's very excited and I kind of am, too, because I now have 5 months of one-word command behavior modification. It works wonders. All I have to do is raise my right eyebrow - which is more dramatic now that I've had them waxed a tad thinner - and then I affect a poker-face stare and mention, "Washington..." and he bucks right up. It's beautiful.

We've asked that he try to raise $700 on his own through babysitting, chores, odd jobs around the neighborhood, money in lieu of birthday and Xmas gifts, etc. And he needs to earn his American Heritage, Citizenship of the Nation and Family Life merit badges for Boy Scouts as part of going to DC, as well. He's very excited. Who can blame him? The trip looks like a gas. We've discovered there aren't too many 12 years old who would take a trip to the other side of the nation without their parents. Luckily for him and us, Holy Son is already an intrepid traveler from these recent summers trekking off to boy scout camp without us.

And we're gearing up for Nutcracker season soon. Holy Daughter has a big part as a Snow Princess and Holy Son may be enjoying his last stint as the nephew, Nutcracker and prince. It's been a great run for him. He's grown out of three boots these past 3 years and is now working on size 10.5. I've threatened to stop feeding him now that he's 5 ft. 5 and a half, but so far, I'm not having a lot of luck with that.
Last but not least, my weekly Artist's Way group has morphed into a rather tight-knit creative circle. We're a great mix of newbie and seasoned artists. It's been a fair amount of work coming up with creative in-class assignments, but also a lot of fun. Last week we shared our creative collages. I did not create a new one from spring but I'm happy to see that my Obama image has since manifested into more than just a dream. As has my Art Club image. That's the cool thing about making creative dream posters. If you build it - the images, that is; they really can and do come true.
Anyhoo, I'm hard at work amassing a collection of 50,000 written words this month so on that note, I must make like Snoopy and type away.



I decided to get with the program this year and hop on the Nanowrimo bus. It's one part impulsive, three parts scary, two parts liberating and four parts fun. Or something like that. Actually being given public permission to write without regard to editing - that is such a foreign concept for me. I edit while writing. That's my problem - the whole enchilada of writer's block right there in that insidious e-word.

I'm 1/5th of the way there already - I've been writing to beat the banshee the last couple of days. Is it a shitty first draft? You betcha. But in the interest of quantity not quality and an attitude born of altitude, I'm setting my sights high and not blinking until I get there.

Wish me godspeed and a daily flash of insight!