Poem of the Month: Poetry Class

poetryLast month I shared how I have recently returned to poetry. I haven’t slowed down – so far I’ve written more than 50 poems. Many of them are not fit for public consumption, but I have written enough that are and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a new blog series is born, and I will be poem one poem each month. These aren’t my most personal poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, inspired by the poetry class I took last fall. I had a lot of fun writing this one, and it makes me laugh.

Poetry Class

Of the poem
Matters, he informs
The room. Each word chosen
Carefully. Each punctuation mark
A window into the very soul of poetry
Itself. There are no accidents in an effectively
Affective piece of writing. Blood, sweat and tears,
Caution and deliberation, reflection and cleverness are
The currency of poets. Which makes me think I could be a poet          i will eat you!
Maybe. Because if I know about anything, I know this:
Taking myself far too seriously; Believing that it all
matters; Over-thinking commas and semi-
colons (particularly the semi-colons);
Feeling all the feels; Words. I love
Words so deeply I use them
Recklessly, carelessly,
Wantonly. I’m a

Image credit – Steve Johnson on Flickr

Dabbling in Extra-Curricular Activities

I am good at starting things. In fact, I love starting things. I have always been what you would call a joiner. When I’m in class now I’m always the first person to raise my hand. I volunteer. I say yes often.

I am also good at keeping things going. Once I’ve said yes to something, I stick with it. My 24th dating anniversary with my husband is coming up in less than a month. On that fateful day in 1991 when we became a couple I was a few days shy of my 15th birthday. We have never broken up. I would have driven my old Honda Civic for another 15 years if it hadn’t been totalled.

What I am not good at is endings. I hate endings. I rarely quit things, even when I probably should. In my ideal world, everything would more or less stay the same forever. I like predictability. I do not like upheaval. I am willing to trade novelty for security.

fencing 10-year-oldAs a parent my natural inclination would be to pick an activity for each of my kids and have them stick with it. Unfortunately, my children have other ideas. My ten-year-old daughter has tried ballet, Irish dancing, tap dancing, musical theatre, art classes, gymnastics, fencing, soccer and carpentry. She also does swimming, which is non-negotiable, because it’s a necessary life skill. My six-year-old son has tried music, basketball, soccer and baseball. So far, nothing has stuck. They enjoy their activities, but when they’re over they want to try something new.

When I was writing for VancouverMom.ca I had a badminton lesson with Olympian Anna Rice. I also had the opportunity to interview her for an article. She shared how she had started playing badminton as an eight-year-old. My own daughter was eight at the time and of course I started imagining that my Hannah would discover a sport she loved so much it took her to the Olympics. So far, no luck.

On the upside, the fact that my kids are dabblers makes my life easier. They have fun, and we have free time because we’re not driving hither and yon for training sessions and tournaments. Our weekends are our own. I don’t have any fears that they’re missing out on childhood because they’re spending so much time on one particular activity. Balance is good, or so they say.

On the other hand, I would like my children to give everything they try a fair shake. I would also like for them to find something they’re really passionate about. So we don’t let them quit activities they’ve signed up for. I’ve found that sometimes an activity that they despised on lesson three suddenly becomes fun for them on lesson six. Persistence pays off, and even if you’re not destined for soccer or badminton glory, you can still learn a lot by giving them a go.

And so, I vacillate between wanting to give my children the freedom to explore, and wanting them to find something they truly excel at. I struggle with my own desire for them to never, ever quit, and work to identify when to push them to go on and when to cut our losses. I don’t think there is any sure-fire recipe for success. I wish there were, though. Sometimes having to figure things out for myself at every single step of this parenting journey wears a little thin. You know?

Podcast: Keeping it Spicy While Trying to Get Pregnant

strocel.com podcast interview sex with dr jess o'reillyYou guys! It’s been more than a year since I recorded a podcast. In fact, if you conceived a child on the date of my last podcast, that child would be sitting up and eating solid food by now. Which might seem like a random piece of trivia but it really isn’t, because today’s podcast is all about conceiving. I recently spoke with sexologist, author and TV personality Dr. Jess O’Reilly about just that – and how to keep things interesting in the bedroom while you’re doing it. This subject hits home for me especially because I had a harder time conceiving my second child due to a progesterone deficiency.

Luckily there was an easy fix for me and my son Jacob is now six and a half. All the same, I think this is something that anyone can relate to. Whether you’ve had a hard time conceiving, and whether you’re thinking of having your first child or your fifth, we can all use tips. In fact, tips are a good thing even if we’re not trying to conceive, but I found that when you’re trying to map your fertility and maximize your chances, the sense of adventure evaporates pretty quickly.

Dr. Jess had some great suggestions – in fact, I wish I’d spoken with her before I had my own children. From getting both partners involved, to tools that can maximize your chances of hearing the pitter patter of little feet, we had a great conversation.

If you’d like to spice things up, if you’re trying to get pregnant (or planning on it soon), or if you would just like to listen to a great conversation, you’ll want to check out my podcast with Dr. Jess. But a word to the wise – while we kept things clean, if you have little ones around and you’re not ready to answer a bunch of questions about the birds and the bees, you may want to save this one for when you’re alone. Or listen with your headphones, which is what I always do.

If you enjoyed my conversation with Dr. Jess O’Reilly, or you’d like to hear more of my interviews, check out the Strocel.com podcast in iTunes. As an extra bonus, if you subscribe you won’t miss a minute of my future broadcasts. And if you have a podcast idea, please share it with me. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

My Life in Numbers

Well, hello there. How are you? I feel like there’s a lot going on in my life that I haven’t updated here. The hunt for a new vehicle to replace the Silver Bullet. My continuing obsession with poetry. My journey towards becoming a math teacher. My love of tea. My podcast. I’ve decided to summarize it all numerically, because that’s how I roll.

toyota sienna minivan
This happened

Counting up my Life

Number of poems I have written so far in March: 33
Varieties of tea in my tea cupboard right now: 34
Days since I found I got in to teacher training at SFU: 20
Kilometers I have driven in my pre-owned Toyota Sienna minivan since I bought it: 1237
The same number of kilometers translated into miles: 769
Nights that my husband Jon stayed downtown while covering TED2015 last week: 8
Different types of seeds started indoors: 12
Number of potatoes planted outdoors: 15
Number of onion sets planted outdoors: 30
Podcasts I recorded this year: 1
Spring flower photos posted to Instagram: 10
Days of Spring Break for my kids this month: 16
Nights spent completely alone this month: 1
Nights spent completely alone since my daughter was born in 2005: 1
Days until I turn 39: 43
Pieces of licorice eaten so far today: 15
Number of steps taken so far today: 7044
Sudoku games played this month: 145
Stairs in my house: 29
Days since I last vacuumed: 12
Number of posts I’ve written on this blog: 2077

What numbers are significant in your life right now? I’d love to hear!

On Returning to Poetry

I have been writing poetry.

This is something I used to do as an angst-ridden 12 and 13 year old. I generated overly obvious rhymes and hit myself over the head with my own hopes and fears. I remember sitting down with pen and paper while I was babysitting, churning out three or four poems in an evening. I fancied myself quite the poet. I don’t have any of those poems anymore. I feel a little bit sad about that.

I stopped writing poems by the time I was 15, other than the occasional piece for a class or for a laugh or one time for the fabulous Samantha Reynolds of bentlily. Last semester I took a poetry class, and while it left me feeling introspective, just as much of the time it also left me rolling my eyes. Not every piece of prose resonates me, and the same can be said of poetry. Especially when I have to look up every second word in the poem. Clearly, I am too lazy.

This past weekend, though, my therapist charged me with doing some writing. (As I’ve mentioned before, the fact I’m in therapy isn’t cause for alarm. I love therapy and I think it’s an amazing thing to do for yourself anytime.) I had planned to write a journal piece, but I was really dragging my heels. I like blogging, but journals aren’t really my thing, especially not on heavy subjects. The solution struck me out of the blue, though – a poem. It’s the perfect vehicle for my emotions and insecurities and shameless wallowing.

writing poetry blogging wordsAnd so for the past few days I have been writing poetry. First on paper, then on the computer. Two or three at a time. About all different things. Eventually I started a Word document and put them in there. Seven so far, not for sharing. Are they any good? I don’t even care, that’s not the point. Although I will admit to re-reading and editing them. I am a writer, after all.

What I do know, for sure, is that writing poetry is energizing me. I am excited to sit down and tap out the verses. Sometimes with well-designed stanzas, sometimes with a rhyming couplet thrown in, sometimes all over the map. As I write I’m forced to think about word choice and meaning, notice how I’m feeling, remember what it was like to be a kid or a teenager or a newlywed. Poetry is putting me in my in touch with all the feels. And oh, I really do have so many feels.

Where will this take me? I don’t know. Will I change my mind about sharing some poetry, once I have 347? I don’t know that, either. For now, though, I’m enjoying the journey. In the meantime, I don’t want this post to be a big tease, so here is a quick poem I wrote just for you.

Concrete Words

I send words out into the ether
Typed on my keyboard in my family room
Stories and confessions
A statement of Who I Am
And a question: can you relate?
Are you out there feeling the same way?

When I was home alone all day
With little children
Words were my lifeline
Missives sent into the dark
To a place where, miraculously
Other people found them.

I didn’t feel so alone
All by myself at home,
Thanks to words shared in return
On other blogs
In thoughtful or hurried comments
On Twitter and Facebook.

We are here.
Our words matter
Because we share a space
We built with our own hands
Not with bricks or timber but
By tapping on keyboards in our pajamas.

Hannah + 10 years and 12 days

There were a few things that I gave up when I became a mother:

  • Bathroom privacy
  • Adequate sleep
  • The ability to leave the house in less than three minutes
  • A rigid adherence to schedules

It should come as no surprise, then, that I’m sitting here writing about my daughter’s 10th birthday almost two weeks after the big day. This is just how I roll these days.

It’s been a decade, now, since Hannah made her surprise entrance into the world six weeks ahead of schedule. The fear over having a preemie has long subsided. So has my desire to maintain my pre-baby identity. I’m okay with letting a blog post slide.

Of course, for all that I’ve given up as a mom, I’ve gotten so much more. I’m able to let go of who I used to be because the person I am today is actually a whole lot better. I’m more flexible, more pragmatic, less selfish and less judgmental. Those early years broke me down and built me back up, a new and improved person. I might not be as chipper and fresh-faced, but looks can be deceiving. I am proud of my children, and I am proud of the person that I have become thanks to them.

Of course, the changes never end when you’re a parent. At my daughter’s party, surrounded by nine and ten year olds, I watched as the children danced around the arts centre to songs I didn’t recognize. They knew all the words, and they sang them out loud while they chased the little circles of light reflected from the disco ball. It was supposed to be a theatre party, but the highlight was definitely having a personal DJ who played every song they requested … provided they were age-appropriate, of course.

As Hannah’s age turns to double digits, her connection to pop culture is growing stronger while mine is waning. She is entering the world and has a strong thirst for staying current. I honestly can’t bother anymore. It feels like I’m passing the baton. Here, you keep track of what clothes I should wear and what music I should listen to and what movies I should see. And I will do my best to let you express yourself without passing judgment. Deal?

Soon Hannah will not be my little girl anymore. But right now, as she settles into tweendom, she still expresses glee over testing her skills against a boy at fencing class. She still tells me I am cozy. She still insists I sing her a lullaby every night. She still asks me for advice about pretty much everything. And so I watched her dancing with her friends and soaked up the moment, knowing that like all things in parenting, this will end long before I’m ready. At each step I memorize as much as I can. I don’t want to forget what this was like. Please don’t let me forget.

I know I will forget. See: sleep deprivation.

The first decade of parenting has been a wild ride. When all is said and done, it’s been amazing. I would do it all over again without any hesitation. I can’t wait to see what the next decade holds, for me and for my daughter.

happy birthday 10 year old

Farewell to the Silver Bullet

Sometimes life brings the unexpected – events that are completely out of your control, and you could have never seen coming. Such an event happened to me last Friday. I had just set out from my house to run some errands when another driver turned left out of a townhouse complex driveway and straight into me. Luckily I wasn’t going that fast, and I did have a second to see her coming so I had time to brake and slow down further. As a result I wasn’t hurt, and neither was the other driver – at least not physically. My car wasn’t so lucky.

car accident
My silver Honda after the accident

This was the most serious car accident I have ever been in, by far. I called 911 and the fire department, police and paramedics came. They took pictures and I gave a statement and my kids’ principal came down to see what all the commotion was about because we were right down from the school. The other driver and I made friends and hugged and cried. I know that she didn’t mean to hit me, and there was nothing to be done about it at that point. Eventually they came and loaded my car up on the tow truck and the police officer gave both of us drivers a copy of his report and I walked home.

car on flat bed tow truck
My car on the tow truck

I called the insurance company and reported the accident and then waited to hear what would happen. On Sunday I got a call from an insurance estimator letting me know that my car had been declared a “total loss”. I could come and get the rest of my stuff out of it from the estimate centre. In that moment, I found myself feeling indescribably sad.

broken honda civic
Saying good-bye as I collect my stuff

My car was not a new car. I bought it brand-new, but that was way back in 2000. It was my first act as a fully-employed university graduate. I paid the car, which I nicknamed the Silver Bullet, off in full within two years. It was nothing fancy, but it drove like a dream and was always reliable. And in a decade and a half we’ve been through a lot together, that car and me.

The Silver Bullet took me from my life as a single university graduate to a married woman to a mother of one, and then two. That car has seen me through multiple jobs, lengthy work commutes and a return to school. I was in that car (parked, in a driveway) when I called Jon to let him know that I was in labour with Jacob. I brought my wedding dress home in that car. I took it on road trips and to the grocery store more times than I can begin to count. It was like another living space for me, where I could set everything up exactly as I liked.

My car had been hit and scraped before, but it was always fixable. It always came back to me. And I was planning on driving it for another 15 years. By all accounts, with only 113,000 km (70,200 miles) on the odometer it had a lot of life left in it. This time, though, the damage was too bad. I had to say good-bye.

Dealing with the insurance company and finding another car isn’t easy. Being in an accident is no fun at all. I’m not relishing the experience. But mostly, I’m feeling sad. I realize my car was just a car, but it really had come to mean a lot to me. I don’t want to let it go, but the decision has been made for me. All I can do now is make the best of it, so I’m trying to do that. Trying to look on the upside. I get a new car – that’s something. I’m sure I will come to like that new car, too. But it will never be the same. It will never be my Silver Bullet.

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