Monday, September 30, 2013

Shuswap 2013 Bates

What a fun year for Greg and I at Shuswap this year. We have decided that next year are establishing a new tradition. No job working around the house or preparing food. We are just going to play with our grandchildren. I can hardly wait for June 2014 to arrive.

An island picture.What could be more fun? Ezra, Kalina Theresa Audra and Ivan patiently waiting for service!

Welcoming the train drive by while waving the ribbons.

Another island of fun. Looks like Tim is in charge here.

Nathan sat on the couch just trying to play on the I pad. One after another the whole group just starting watching him. I observed him trying to play his game but he was so interesting that the group watching him just got bigger and bigger. He displayed the patience of Job. 

What is that Teague? A frog up your nose!

No summer is complete without a trip to Margaret Falls. Next year I am going to be in on that trip. No more cooking for me. 2014 is going to be the year of the peanut butter sandwich.

Hilo Hawaii/Ensenada

Leaving Ensenada Mexico from our veranda at the back of the ship.

Just could not pass up this bit of color amongst the clouds.

Here is Greg posing in front of a palm tree called a lipstick plam tree. The stem grows in red and then turns to green. A lovely looking stalk and tree. Here Greg is in the botanical garden in Hilo Hawaii.

There you see a smoking volcano in the background.

I am standing in a lava tube. The lava flows and hardens on the outside. The lava keeps flowing on the inside of the tube. When the lava finishes flowing, there is a tube left. I am just walking through a place where lava once hung out.

Lava tube on lava tube is what the island is made of.

Greg is chatting with the bus driver/guide. She was a superb guide.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hunting Part II - A tad graphic

Photo: Richard Johnson
Richard and his friend had gone looking for a deer, taking a week off work to drive north.

He says hunting is part getting an animal and part being on the land, away from phones and internet – enjoying the animals, the sunrises, the smell of the harvest.

Photo: Richard Johnson
“We got a deer, early in the week,” he told me this morning.

“I would love to see some pictures.”

“Here, taking anything off the disk you wish,” he said, pulling the card out of his camera and putting it in my hand.

Photo: Richard Johnson
 “Just telling you, the deer is hanging in your garage, so you won’t be surprised when you go out there and see it.”

Doral went hunting a lot – there was a group of men who loved this past time.

They weren’t trophy hunters.

They brought their meat home, they butchered it, they hung it, they packaged it.

Photo: Richard Johnson
In our family we ate it all winter.

At our house goulash was made from wild hamburger.

I wasn't fond of it then.

I am not fond of it now.

Processed into sausage?  Yes.

But goulash?  I pass.



Photo: Richard Johnson
When I hear Richard say he is going hunting in northern Alberta for a week, I can’t help think about being young and knowing when it was hunting season.

My dad was cleaning his gun and getting his red jacket ready – as well as his stash of aged cheese in a brown ceramic pot and Ritz Crackers. 

Religiously, mother celebrated Thanksgiving with a big turkey, fresh rolls, Yorkshire pudding.

Photo: Richard Johnson
We ate in the dining room, putting leaves in the table to make room for the guests. “Where is Doral?”, someone would inevitably ask. 
“It is the first day of hunting season,” she would reply. “I would never ask him to miss that.” 

Photo: Richard Johnson
 Richard and his friend had gone looking for a deer, taking a week off work to drive north. 
He says it is part hunting and part being on the land, away from phones and internet – enjoying the animals, the sunrises, the smell of the harvest.

“We got a deer, early in the week,” he told me this morning. “I would love to see some pictures.” 

Photo: Richard Johnson
“Here, taking anything off the disk you wish,” he said, pulling the card out of his camera and putting it in my hand. 

 “Just telling you, the deer is hanging in your garage, so you won’t be surprised when you go out there and see it.”

So when I went out to the garage, I wasn't surprised.


"Goodnight Desdemona, Goodmorning Juliet"

Othello on thursday night at NT Live, and then on Friday night, Steve and I headed to the Belfy Theatre for our date night:  Steve got us tickets to see the play "Goodnight Desdemona, Goodmorning Juliet"

Basically, it is a comedy by Anne-Marie MacDonald (who wrote the book Fall on Your Knees), about a geeky assistant professor of English who believes that Othello and Romeo and Juliet were originally comedies, and that Shakespeare turned them into tragedies.  She falls into the two plays themselves, and attempts to change the outcome.  Much hilarity ensues.  It was such fun, particularly having seen Othello the night before.  Serious fun.  If this play comes to town, you should definitely check it out!

Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Get on Board

We are on our way to Bora, Bora, Hawaii, the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand. It seems like we have been gone for weeks but it has not been that long. We had a four hour layover in Phoenix so we walked the wings of the airport and then chose to eat Mexican salad and nachos. Delicious!

Then we had another hour flight before arriving in San Diego and then it was a five minute taxi ride to the hotel. Greg went for a walk around the pier while I tried to sleep. After half an hour of tossing and turning, I ran to the bathroom and on my way grabbed the ice bucket. The nachos and Mexican salad did not taste the same on the up as they did on the way down. So I took a break from eating until the first night of dinner on the ship.

Bora Bora
We took a Celebrity Cruise Bus from San Diego across the Mexican border to Tijuana travelling thorugh desert country but along the  beautiful sea, lined with lovely waves until we came to our ship.

Our bedrooms were not open when we boarded the ship so we had to sit for lunch.

I came back with a simple salad and so did Greg.

There was so much food and so much choice that a lettuce leaf was good for me.

Bora Boa Resort
We are now on our third sea day. Greg attends the lectures on ‘the movies’, ‘hybrid cars’ and the naturalists lectures. Such a lovely boring bora life!

I have seen the same Bora Boring pictures on the ship Marcia that you showed me on your I-phone; that destination is exactly what we are headed for.

We are having fun!


Othello Again

I woke up thinking about Othello. Some of my second language friends went to see Coriolanus. It was a bust. They didn’t understand one word. I thought of their reaction to Coriolanus when the Othello started last night. I was asking the question, “Have I wasted my time coming. I am having to work so hard with the Old English grammar and with the English accent. I might not get much out of this play.” I coached myself to stay with it, saying, remember, keep working at it, it will get easier, don’t give up, use your brain, make it work hard. By the end of the play, I wasn’t noticing how hard the work was. How hard the language and accent were didn’t matter, because inside, I was writhing in pain in the scene where Othello kills Desdamona.

 I was using controlled breathing to stay calm and thinking ... how did the director, Nicholas Hytner do this? How did he bring the play's themes right up in the present, making me think of other crimes of passion. The simplicity of the set helped – this could be anywhere, anytime. The moves of the actors, which I knew were carefully choreographed, were realistic – so much was being said with the physicality of the moves that brought death. I was trying to stay focused on what I was seeing, at the same time trying to detach myself from the horror.

Why did I go to the show at all?  I am saying now as I said to myself last night, that is why I like the theatre. It gives me a chance to see myself and the broader culture that I live in.  To see it captured on the stage so that I can have the distance that being in the audience gives.  For me, I know I am engaging in the broader cultures concern over this problem.  And with Shakespeare, I am also thinking -- 400 years and still this is a central problem in some people's life.

John Everett Millais's "Ophelia"
Rebecca will want to know that the Willow, Willow song was lovely. Plaintive. Reminiscent of other images: Ophelia singing her mad song and then floating down the stream, dead, a lily on her breast-- no wonder that Desdamona death scene was excrutiatingly painful.  It carries with it a lot of other cultural allusions.

I was remembering that Rebecca sang the Willow Song when she acted in The Trojan Women. This morning Bonnie sang the song to me on the phone – unsolicited, it just leaped out of her vocal chords when I said I had seen Othello last night. She said, “Of course I know that song. How could a person take so many speech lessons and not be able to sing it.” That answered my question as to how she knew the song.

I will be processing the the National Theatre Live's Othello for a long time. Maybe find the play and read that last scene again. Perhaps I  will go back and take a look at this production when it comes again for its Encore. I hope I am near a theatre where I will be able to do that. One viewing was not enough.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Othello - the reviewers were right

First performance by the King’s Men at the court of James I in November 1604.
Olivia Vinall as Desdemona, Adrian Lester as Othello
at the National Theatre

Photo: Alastair Muir

Four hundred years later and I can go to one of Shakespeare’s plays and feel the themes are current.

The Guardian and Telegraph reviewers were right. Brilliant setting. The staging in the concrete bunkers – chilling.

Adrian Lester was a larger than life, Othello. Rory Kinnear played the kind of Iago that let the audience know how hateful and dangerous he was.

Nicholas Hytner, the director, gave a pre-performance interview with Emma Freud. I will know him anywhere. Soft spoken voice, his eyelids, like perfect round awnings – how theatrical is that!

 Kate Waters, the fight director was interviewed after the 15 minute break. The fight scene had the woman next to me, an old English Teacher colleague of Kelvins, laughing. And the beer-drinking party was also typical. Lots of dares over alcohol.

I was glad to see the half time interview with the clips showing us how fight-director could get so many men into such a small space and have them choreographed so that they could appear to be having such a big fight. Her head-butting demo made me think I didn’t want to meet her in a dark alley.

The military director, Jonathan Shaw, pointed out that Rory Kinnear’s refusal to follow rules about dressing in correct military clothing was consistent with Iago’s character – military people who see the show comment that it is too bad he didn’t have on the correct uniform, which the military director concedes and then says, “That is the point – he is Iago.”

Kelvin’s favorite part of the show: the overall acting, especially the beginnings of Iago’s manipulations of Othello into a jealous rage. That was a breathtaking scene. He adds that the changing of sets was so smoothly done – seamless. A pleasure to watch.

Arta’s favourite part of the show: Emilia and Desdemona in the final act of the play – especially loved the ripping off of the old bedsheets and putting on Desdemona’s marriage sheets.

Gloria Dalton’s (Kelvin’s colleague) favorite part of the show? At the half she said, I have taught this play so many times to Grade XII English classes. Today the declamation of the lines made sense for me of sentences I have sometimes worried about.

What is next?

MacBeth: Oct 17, October 19, 23
Coriolanus: January 30, February 22
National Theatre 50 Years on Stage: November 2
War Horse: 2014
Frankenstein: both versions will be broadcast
Richard II: November 13

Also coming:
Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along from London's West End: November 7.  I have read the Guardian's review on this show.  Looks like a show not to be missed.    So nice to know we can see it in a local theatre.  Beats the cost of flying to London to see it.



Tonight we get to see Othello, 7 pm.

$22 for Seniors at the Crowfoot Cineplex, General Seating.

The show runs for 3 hours, 38 minutes. There is an Encore showing, October 12th at select theatres only.

 If you can't get to see the show, you will feel a bit as though you have been by scanning one of the three reviews below. 

Happy theatre going, if you can join us via a theatre close to you.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Michael's 2nd Birthday Party - The Guests

... wanna play in here? ...
How to get out of this position?
I liked watching the children at the party.

Teresa is eight months old now.

She can sit up, but she can’t crawl yet.

Going from sitting to crawling? – she is trying to master that move with yoga moves.

She can get one leg stretched out, but she hasn’t figured out what to do with that other leg that is still in sitting position – what to do to get her to a crawling position.
Who will pick me up?

For her, that is the lingering question.

She wore out near the end of the party.

Amir put her on his shoulder and walked her back and forth in the yard, not noticing that she finally gave out, relaxing into a soporific hang-over position on his shoulder.

...   food?  dirt? what next at the party? ...
Teresa was the Queen of the Castle.

 I saw her open the blue door on its south side and shepherd many children in, closing the door behind them.

Then leading them over to where the stairs are.

So sweet, taking care of everyone.

 The gracious climbing tube hostess.

 ... no sand better than here ...
Michael ended up in the best spot in his yard.

There is a six foot long, 2 foot wide stretch of fine dirt beside the back of the house where grass is not growing.
Amir and Theresa in a job he is not unfamiliar with back home.

Richard and Miranda have planted plenty of grass seed there, never to see it take.

The spot is better than a sand pile where the grains are small and rough.

Here to take a hand of dirt and toss it to the wind is to see it all disappear into the air.

Nothing hits the ground.

Bouncy castle and climbing tubes notwithstanding, this is the best place in the yard.

... my sweet little Alice blue gown ...
Alice is two months – not two years. She rides around on her mother’s body – wrapped in front and fhen on the back. Her little blue eyes stay open now. 

The tiny baby is gone – that happens so fast.

.. the men ...
I had a good time at the party.

So sweet to see the couples with their children – in threes and fours.

A chance to spend a Saturday watching all of the kids together.

Happy Birthday, Michael.

Happy parenting, all.


Michael's 2nd Birthday Party - Preparation

... home-made cupcakes ...
Joan and Miranda were busy in the kitchen with preparations for Michael’s birthday party when I slipped over there on Friday.

 “ What? You are still here. I thought you had gone to the lake. I just came over to your house and borrowed your Bosch and I still didn’t know you were there.”

I ate four ... even though they didn't have essential fatty ingredients
There were cupcakes being made: large and mini.

The pork was roasting in the slow cooker for pulled pork.

The brownies were gluten less, sugarless and something-else-less, so much so that there was just a chance that they would also be tasteless.

But no.

That was not true.

 Full flavour. Who would have known.

And the next morning I saw the lawn now mowed, a bouncy castle delivered to the back yard, the climbing equipment rearranged so that there was a long tube coming out one side of it, and the water table had its paraphernalia all collected in a bucket by its side.

I don’t know what 2 year wouldn’t have enjoyed hanging out for the afternoon at that party.

... pulled pork to go on new buns ...
Amir and Richard tested out the castle.  Two grown men, relaxing inside.

I asked them why and then gave them the answer before they had to think one up.

“Just because the two of you were never in such an apparatus as a child, doesn’t mean you have to check it out now.”

“Oh yes we do have to check it out and that is exactly why.”

... the wash flaps in the wind before the party begins ...
I knew the jeans would come down from the clothes line before the guests started arriving.

But there – in the morning of the party -- the Chinook wind drying making the jeans flap in the breeze.

Looked like there was potential for happiness for 2 year olds in the afternoon.


Delyle Johnson: November 24, 1957 - Sept 25, 2013

National Geographic ... a window to the world
Today, out of respect for the death of my nephew, Delyle Johnson, I slowed down my pace.  I sat in the sun and read a chapter of a book I have been wanting to read.  I think Delyle would have nodded his head in agreement, that such an act would be a good way to mark his passing.   I couldn't help but reflect on his life.  
Oh brother! that kid knew his geography.  A little guy from Barnwell, Alberta when I first met him -- maybe six years old.  No really big library in his home town, although there was a lot of love in that village.  But initially, not a lot of access to information.  By the time he was 10 years old, Delyle had  read every National Geographic to ever come through the post office to his home.  As a child, he knew where the smallest of towns and villages were situated throughout the world.  Delyle travelled well and far --  long before he left home, before he went to college or had a car or could get on a plane.

He is survived by his wife, Shauri, and their children, James, Graeme, and Jackie.

On Dressing Up

... no earrings allowed ...
I have always been saving my good clothes for when the time is right.  Now I am at the point of figuring out when is the time right, and I have decided maybe the time  is right every time I go out the door of my house. So I dressed up to go to the clinic to have my blood work done this morning.

I tried to make an appointment by phone.  The answering machine wouldn't let me wait in a queue.  "The queue is too long," the mechanized voice told me. "Use the website."

I tried to go out and make an appointment using the lab website.  Negotiating that space would take more than an undergraduate degree.  I quit and decided to be a clinic drop in, leaving the house before 7 a.m. this morning.  And yes, I dressed up.

The exercise  at the lab is, take a number from the dispensing machine and then wait for space between scheduled appointments.

I read my new book, Aging Well.  At 8:30 am my number got called.

A large man, an Afro-American, a big booming voice called out,  "#25."

I walked from my chair to the desk.   

Still in that booming voice that should have belonged to a football announcer he playfully called out, his voice lilting as though he were reading poetry, "Just because you got the looks, don't mean I'm going to take you first."

Slow blush, a hot one that I cannot control moves up from my toes to my head.


Shouldn't have combed my hair this morning. 

Too embarrassing.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Name your Topic

Two university students are staying with us this semester: Phillipp from Lutherstradt Vittenburg, Eastern German; Harald from Graz, Austria. I have my Collins World Atlas out, finding where these exact places are on the map. I have gone to Google to see some pictures of their home towns.

When he first came, Harald spent one month climbing in British Columbia before school started. Phillipp and Harald have already been camping in Waterton. What was the best thing about Waterton, I asked. They said it was the moon coming over the horizon at night and the mountain breeze while sitting around a campfire.

They are interested in Canada, in what makes us Canadian, and they are specifically interested in us – they want to know how many children we have, their names, where they live and how we live without them. Three of us had lunch together yesterday – a salad and some new brown bread, hot out of the oven. Both men have already learned the only essential talent all roomers must know here. How to cut bread when it is hot. Here was our lunch discussion:

Arta: You set the topic for the conversation today, Philipp. What subject would you like to talk about?

Phillipp: I want to know more about the Mormons.

Arta: I am at an impasse, at a loss as to how to begin. This is not the topic I thought you would pick.  I thought we would be talking about Canada.  Well, you will hear two different stories from us. Kelvin will tell you the story of the beginnings of the church. This can take five minutes, ten minutes, ½ hour, 4 hours – you must tell me which version you want him to start on. I suggest starting small, and you can advance to the longer versions. My story will be about the church today. I have already begun telling you that story. Before you went to Waterton, I described how the Hutterities, the Mormons and the Kainai people have lived in the same community for 100 years without mixing much with each other. My story(ies) will be episodic and told over the 8 months you are here. The last roomer who left here said from what he had seen in the five years he lived with us, he would join the Mormon church. He said that the trouble with joining is that he doesn’t believe in God, the one essential belief the Mormons have.  He doesn't think the Mormons would have him. He said he had never seen such a fine religious community and he could see it would be a good place to be.

I told him he was right. He couldn’t join. Not golden.

Phillipp: I guess we can start with the five minute version from Kelvin.

Arta: I will set the timer.

(I set the timer and tell Philipp that we can both continue eating while Kelvin talks. Kelvin begns a story whose beginnings are in 1805 when Joseph Smith was born. Philip doesn’t eat. He just listens. When the buzzer rings Kelvin is at the point of Moroni coming to see Joseph Smith. I give Kelvin 5 more minutes. Philipp is interested.)

Thomas, Rebecca, Ryan and Catie
... helping out on the National Day of Service ...

If I had begun to tell the story, I might have taken Philipp to the website Catherine sent to me ... the one that describes what the Mormons were doing during Canada’s National Day of Service. I told Philipp yesterday and I tell him again today, Mormons can organize for giving service and helping in disasters in amazing ways.



I don't hate spelling.

I don't have many memories of learning how to spell. My teachers must have taught it to me in school, right? My parents must have practiced with me at home, correct? Yet, I have so few memories of the process of learning to spell. Is it hard for everyone?

I have some rules memorized, a sure sign that I was taught them some where along the way.
     1. i before e, except after c.
     2. if a verb ends in a consonant, double it before adding -ing.

There must be others rules.

I have memories of going to write a word and thinking, "how come I can never remember how to spell this word?" Is it ...congratulations or contradulations?  Oh, well, I'll just write "good for you" instead.

But here I am ... the mother of a seven-year-old who finds spelling excruciatingly difficult. And the same child uses words I don't know how to spell or define. Just the other morning he was chanting, "Stand up for your rights, Trog-lo-dytes".

I wasn't thinking about helping him learn to spell when I decided French Immersion would be a good idea. I am struggling with the vocabulary in his "primers" that are Level J and he is on Level N. My dilemma (thanks spell check for the help with that word) is multifaceted.

So, for now, I have found something easier for me to help him with. I am going to focus on writing stories. Writing them in English. Don't get me wrong. I most certainly don't think writing is easy. I just think it will be easier for me to help my son with writing than with spelling.

Hard to type without a, s, and d working consistently.
Here's my first attempt at a quick write. I didn't realize just yet how broken my son's keyboard was until I used it and the words came out very wrong. The keys a, s and d do not work. The second paragraph is just the first, retyped on a computer. I am going to type it here in case the pictures is too small for you to read:  "Last week I bought groceries for lunch.  I drove home.  I told David to carry in the groceries.  He attacked me with a cucumber.  Lucky there were two, so I could fight back.  I won the fight.  I hit him in the belly.  But my lunch was yucky.  It was mushy.  The end."

David pointed out that the story is incorrect. He had a carrot that was 18 inches long and I had a cucumber.

Also, I started the fight, not him.

I told him I didn't want to tell the truth. But I will tell the truth here on the blog. The truth is, we had a great battle, until David poked me in the butt with the carrot. I reacted more strongly than I would have liked to. Next thing I knew, he was getting up from the floor with tears in his eyes. I kept asking what was wrong. I had no clue. He couldn't talk.

Huddled into my arms, he asked why I had pushed him right onto the floor.


What could I say? "No one wants a carrot up their butt?"

                     I don't want to write.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


This year David has some choice around his dictee (spelling test). He gets to chose one of two "words of the week" lists - the easy list or the more challenging list. Both lists contain high-frequency words we may want to use in stories.

During the week his job is to use the words in the stories he writes. His teacher said that the first draft of the story can have lots of spelling errors. She doesn't care. She would rather you use a word like "enormous" and spell it wrong, than stick with a word like "big" because you know you can spell it correctly.

Last week, I didn't practice the words with him. I didn't have him study, cover, write, and then check. I didn't have him write stories. I avoided it. He finds it excruciating. I find it painful. I dread it. He dreads it. I stuck my head in the sand and hoped spelling would magically become easy without practice.

I found out there is something worse than doing spelling work at home with your child. It is listening to them apologize for something that you don't feel is within their control yet.

He brought home his spelling test at the end of the week. He got 6/12 correct. He apologized for "doing bad" on so many words. My stomach sank. I felt like I was the one who should be doing an apology.

I smiled. I pointed out that if you get 3/4 letters right in a word, that is actually pretty awesome. I am not sure he bought my spin.

I pointed out that three of the words had accent grave, and asked if he knew how to do that on his keyboard. He wasn't sure.

So I got out his home keyboard, and discovered that not only do neither of us know how to do that accent, I discovered that they keyboard is broken. Luckily his school keyboard is working.

So now I have two jobs this week:
1. Fix keyboard.
2. Support spelling learning.
Anyone out there with tips on how to help your seven-year-old learn to spell?

How to write a story - what Mme Weir told me.

Post by David.

First, get comfortable.

Think of someone you want to write a story about. (example, David) Then, write down 3 or 2 things you know about them. (example, I like minecraft. I listen to music in the car. I have a lot of cousins.)

Choose one.

Make four boxes under the one that you choose. And then sketch out a little bit about what happened in each box. And then write what happened under the boxes.

Then that's basically it. You know the basics of making a story. Try it out.

For more ideas, find this book at your school library