Saltwaterangels.com

I’ll explain the title in a minute.

I had a birthday recently which is always nice since people call, send emails, greet on Facebook … in a surge.  And I realized I do that.

Surge.

As though I have a corral of ponies that I ride, one at a time almost exclusively before taking it back to the corral to rest and saddle up another.  Little ponies with names like ‘Fix up Helen’s House’ or “Do Some Maintenance on This One” or “Paperwork” or “Write Another Book” or “Tend the Garden”. This current pony is my little business, “Saltwater Angels” that seems to be  galloping with no sign of slowing down. So I have been either making angels or being outside enjoying the stupendous summer we’ve been having.

Why talk of this?

Partly to explain my blog absence and also to put the name Saltwater Angels on the web. I had the web domain name for two years, but didn’t actually make a webpage and it seems to have expired, and is in some kind of holding tank. Seems like a lot of fuss to deal with trying to re-aquire it so I am marking a claim, so to speak. Just to put the name somewhere in cyberspace.

Until recently I’ve subjected myself to emotional dilemma with the whole ‘craft’ thing, since that is what Saltwater Angels is. Meaning I had issues justifying spending time collecting glass and making angels from the pieces I collected, due to a nagging voice that haunts me regarding making valuable use of my time and/or being a useful citizen. But somehow as loud as that voice is, there is an even louder voice saying, ‘gather glass, wrap some wire, add a bead, add a halo, glue some wings’. And the phone keeps ringing with voices that say, “Can you send more angels. We are almost out.”

So what was once a hobby is now a job. And that is good, because I used to have a pony called, “Classroom Teacher” but I traded it in for “Substitute Teacher” and that pony was getting awfully hungry what with the shrinking number of students around here, the growing number of teachers graduating, and the number of retired teachers that miss the classroom so much they too get onto the sub list.

And there be Saltwater Angels. Someday I’ll make a page for that, right here. No need for another website. So I shall be frequenting beaches this fall with my little bucket…


Authors at the Astor


And the winner is…

Seems I’m a little behind. I saw that inside a birthday card once. On the front was a rear-view drawing of a tiny naked boy, with peachy buttocks. The caption on the front said, ‘Sorry I forgot your birthday.’

First, thanks so much to all of you who did a review for Mennonite Girl on Goodreads.com. I was waiting for my husband to return from Newfoundland early Sunday evening  so he could help me do the draw. He was late due to a malfunction and them needing to get another plane to fly. When he did get home, we did what we always do. We sit with a beer and he gives the play-by-play of his time on ‘the rock’.  I ask him to start with his arrival at the Halifax airport. He started talking. 45 minutes later he was still talking about the guy he was sitting next to on the plane. Which was great because he was a really interesting fellow. Two hours later he was through with the 4 day synopsis. I love every minute of it and this is all to say why I didn’t announce the name yesterday. Just got sidetracked.

The other thing I was going to do yesterday, in honor of Mother’s Day, was to tell a story that my mother told in church one Sunday many years ago. This was during ‘children’s time’, when all the children all called forward during the church service.

Don’t worry. It isn’t actually a church story because there are no Biblical characters in the story. It’s  about a little old widow who lived alone. The widow doesn’t even attend church. She’s a recluse.

The story is called, The Geranium. But right now, I am needed elsewhere. I will finish and post the story sometime soon. This week. But I shall now do the name draw and at least get that done. But due come back later in the week for the story. And next week, I shall try to post on time.

And the winner is Janet Schmidt. Congratulations Janet!!!

Thanks again to all of you who did post ratings and comments.


What’s A Mennonite Girl To Do?


This may look like an ordinary pile of rocks on the beach, but look closely … very closely. If you are a sea glass collector you will see a jackpot of sea glass. And if you aren’t a beach glass collector and want to be, look carefully at the colors and shapes, and you should begin to be able to pick out the whites. They are sort of frosted. Another thing before I continue, picture that this is one very small section of a harbour I stumbled upon. In other words, there was loads of glass on this beach. On most beaches you can walk for five minutes before you find one piece of glass. Imagine sitting down and picking up a bread bag full of the stuff. So that was the situation I found myself in.

Thing was, we were in Stornaway, Scotland. This is located in the Outer Hebrides. Islands way out there.

Backtracking a wee bit. About 10 days.

Naw, I won’t tell you ten days worth. Short version. It was May. A wild windy May, and if you think you’ve experienced wild windy Mays, go to the northern parts of Scotland. I thought I had experienced extreme weather changes, but this was something else. Suffice it to say, all of our clothing was well used, and thank goodness for Mountain Equipment Co-op clothing. Layers and quick dry became deeply meaningful to my heart.  Maybe I’ll just show you one picture so you can see how nice it was at times.

Aren’t they cute??

But we were in a rental car, traveling many roads, and at the time of finding the mother lode of sea glass were in Stornaway, as previously mentioned.

How we happened to find the beach was this. We had arrived on the ferry, toured the Isles of Lewis and Harris, by the way the white sand beaches to the south are stunning. Arrived at our B & B hungry after all the beach walking, but on the way out the front door to find a restaurant heard boisterous talking and laughter from behind the closed door that said ‘lounge,’ so in we went to seek advice regarding food. Inside we found six people, sitting with open Scotch bottles and weeny glasses and trays of lovely little food spread on the coffee table. I know this sounds corny, but these six people live about 140 km away from us in Nova Scotia. Yes. We sat for a while and had a wee dram to warm our appetites for food.

Off we go and found a pub on the harbour. Very nice. Not very busy.  Big fancy restaurant upstairs. We order a pint, decide to sit a bit before ordering food to enjoy the atmosphere and listen to the  accents of the locals. The moment comes when we need food. Right away. We flag the waitress and  I ask twelve or thirteen questions about items on the menu before choosing. This used to drive my husband a bit crazy but he’s grown tolerant.

She leaves, but returns shortly with bad news. An extremely large party at the restaurant upstairs, which is where the kitchen is, has just ordered their meals. Oooh. Very bad timing on our part.

We wait and wait, and wait. Meanwhile my husband gets up to go for a little walk outside, to stretch his legs. He returns about 5 minutes later with a big grin on his face. No the food hasn’t arrived. But he has good news for me. He tells me he stepped down into the harbour, and as he has learned to do, since my sea glass fetish began, looked down, and so discovered the abundance of glass.

I’ll skip the part of us wolfing down the food.

The next day, we came back. And I filled two bags in very short order. That was all fine. We had a car. It went into the trunk. And the glee on my face was a site to see.

Fast forward to going home. We flew with Air Canada. They only allow one bag these days, unless you pay. My husband has Scottish roots, so he had been busily collecting Scottish things to take home to give to family. So his bag was full and heavy. After the Scottish part of my adventure, I was going to spend a week in Cambridge, England with my smart-as-a-whip niece who studies there, and two other lovely women. From there we were heading to Florence, Italy.  That is all relevant because I did not want to lug around two bags of sea glass. The stuff is heavy.

So herein lies the dilemma. What to do?

I love the glass. I want the glass. It is free. But now what?

Royal mail to the rescue. But this decision is made after careful consideration. I always carry a little calculator but still manage to get confused with local currencies.

The bottom line is, I couldn’t really pass up the opportunity. Sea glass. I didn’t need it. I wanted it. I mailed it. It arrived at our post office several weeks later.  In two boxes. And when the assistant post mistress picked one of  the boxes to hand it to me her face went gray and her eyes grew wide.

“It broken!” she said, looking at me.

I just laughed.


My First Newspaper Review

This is pretty exciting news for me. My first newspaper review appeared in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record  a while back.

I would also love a review from you, if you’ve read the book. Please go to http://www.goodreads.com  and do a review and/or rating there. If you do this by May 13, you could win a copy of Mennonite Girl!! Thanks to those of you who’ve already done so. Have a blessed week.


Commuting, Books and Goodreads.com

There was a time in my life when I commuted to work. For three years, I lived in Mission, BC and worked as a  teacher in the Burnaby School District. As the crow flies the distance is probably 60 km. As the cars drive, the distance is about 75 km. According to Mapquest, the time to drive from A to B should be just over an hour. I was thrilled if the round trip could be completed in 31/2 hours … because I drove in rush hour.

I shan’t delve too much into the joy  involved in leaving my house each work day at 6:25, speeding along the country-roads part of my journey in the dark, half the time in the rain, before zipping onto the highway, speeding with the other vehicles or suffering with being tailgated, slowing to a crawl as we got closer to the bridges, shifting into first gear, second gear, stopping, first gear, second gear, first gear, second gear … merging onto the bridge with 100,000 other vehicles then weaving through urban neighbourhoods behind sleepy, slowpoke, oblivious-to-my-obvious-haste drivers to reach my destination. Suffice it to say my dentist asked me after I had been doing this for just over a year, “What are you doing to your teeth? You’re grinding them down to pulp.”

Due to subtracting 3-4 hours of quality time each working day for three years, I felt obliged to use the rest of my time wisely. So there was no dilly dallying around. Time was like gold. One thing I love to do is read. And so I frequented the public library to get books. But who has time to browse?

My method in selecting books was to stand in one aisle and randomly pull books off the shelf until I had selected between 8 and 10. This usually took less than three minutes. My theory was that there was likely to be at least one or two really good ones in the batch. Maybe more. But I always had something to read. The trouble with this method, I often picked books I had already read. Many times I would read to the middle of a book and realize I had already read it.

And one glorious day I got a job teaching in Mission. My commute time went from 3-4 hours a day to 12 minutes. Each day when I got into the car I said a prayer of thanks, almost weeping in gratitude.

I also started buying books. Because I had time, sweet sweet time. And more money with not filling the gas tank three times a week. And, I figured with the stiff library fines I was paying each month, I might as well be buying the books. But several times I bought the same book twice. Which was good and bad; good because I could give the new one as a gift, bad because the reason I bought the book a second time was the first time it left no impression or I read it halfway or not past page one. Therefore probably not what I considered a ‘must read’. I bought Mercy Among the Children three times.

I often thought how nice it would be to have a list of books I have read. A friend of mine has one. She has a notebook with each title, author and a rating for each book. So when people asked her for a recommendation, she pulls out her little book and recommends away. When someone asked me for a suggestion, I usually stared while my eyes glazed over. Not because I haven’t read any good books. I have read many. One or two may have come to mind. But I knew there are  many more lurking in the deep recesses of my brain so I might get flustered, becoming less likely to make an intelligent suggestion.

So I got a notebook I began the practice of recording, but after writing three or four titles, it would get misplaced. I tried again and again, using different size notebooks, but the practice didn’t stick. Someone suggested a spreadsheet. Great idea, I thought, then forgot about it.

Very recently a wise friend (whose blog link  is to the right), introduced me to the Goodreads website. THIS has become my answer to the ‘what have I read problem’. The site is like a virtual library; call up an author, and their books come up pronto. Or a title. So I went through lists of books, and gave them a quick rating,  which added them to ‘My books’, creating a list of books I have read. And I have only started this process. Now if my mind goes blank, I can consult the list.  I listed them according to my ratings so my favorite books come up in the list first. Very wonderful! It also gives review and ratings from other readers. AND it makes suggestions based on what your ratings, AND you can join book clubs on line, save some driving. Just kidding …  I like the talking with  real people approach to discussing books. And the wine.

So I am here to recommend joining Goodreads. It is free and they don’t sell anything. If you love to read, it is a fabulous place to go for ideas.

Now I have a favour to ask. IF you join and IF you have read Mennonite Girl, I would love for you to rate the book and write a quick review. By ‘review’ I mean a few words, like, ‘I really enjoyed this book’, or whatever comes to mind. If you give a review or rating before May 13th, I will put your name into a draw for a free book. Yippeee.

And it is easy to do, the review thing. Go to http://www.goodreads.com and sign up. They won’t bug you. They just need a name and email. Put my title in the search box at the top and my page will come up. It is pretty easy to do, just click on the number of stars and a comment box will come up. If you need further instructions, go to the bottom of the page and see ‘About Us’ and click there, and on that page there is a ‘help’ button which will help you through.

Blessings to you this week, and if you are commuting any great distance, my tip of the week, besides joining Goodreads, is to look for another job.

Oh yes, and I will announce the winner of the book on May 13. Thanks for the review!!!!!


Pretty Fancy Dog House

Five and a half years ago my husband and I moved across the country, mostly to be closer to Robert’s mother, who today is 92 years old. We left what I consider a large home; ‘large’ being relative. So for clarity, I shall say it was around 2600 sq.ft. with a full basement that at night housed our two large (by any standard) dogs. One, a St.Bernard/Lab mix, in the 120-130 lb. range. The rest of the time, the dogs were loose outside. We lived on three acres with woods and creeks, so the dogs were easily entertained with various squirrels, snakes, etc.

This house, the one I am presently sitting in is not quite 1000 feet. With a basement accessible by stairs that bring to mind a ladder, so steep I’ve become adept at going up and down like Charlie Chaplin, and only one bathroom. So, there was an adjustment period…

* If you are asking why would we choose such a small house…see beside to the right…link to ‘our cottage for rent…click on, and go to photo gallery, beaches….this all a five minute walk from here, that’s pretty much why.

One of our first considerations, in our new small house was…. where do the dogs sleep?

Plan A. The basement. I shan’t delve into that for too long. Strange sounds emitting from the well-water softening/treatment system, steep stairs. Suffice it to say, that was a complete disaster.

Plan B. The kitchen floor with a ‘baby gate’ barricade of sorts to keep them from wandering too much into our now ‘smallish’ living space. Our kitchen floor space, when shared with two dogs and mats then becomes more dogs/mats than visible/accessible floor. Frying eggs becomes a problem.

Plan C: Build a dog house. Let’s say a 8′ by 6′ building. That should be big enough. Pricing such a project, since the dog house requires electricity, for light and heat, and some windows, and a wee porch… turns into a rather not so funny joke. My initial reaction upon hearing an estimate, was a stupified, ‘Are you out of your mind??’

Plan D: Build a larger ‘dog house’.  Because if we’re going to spend that much, we might as well end up with something that later can serve as extra sleeping space for people…or something along those lines.

And so it is built. A 10 by 12 foot building and rather lovely I might add, tho’ finished with ‘dog taste’ in mind, i.e. plainish/neutral/soothing paint tones and economical ‘dog’ quality linoleum flooring, for easy sweeping and mopping since they get muddy and wet…and apparently, somewhere in our neighborhood is being touted as a ‘Pretty fancy dog house’.

Dogs move into fancy new dog house.  Abbreviated version:

Night one. There is a hoot owl or two, hooting nearby.( I think it is owl mating season) The dogs scuffle in their fancy new dog house, perhaps reminiscent of their former life; chasing smaller furry/feathery things. They wrestle and squirm… we listen to sounds from our open bedroom window thinking, ‘They’ll adjust’. Next morning when we let the dogs out, we notice scratches on the drywall by the entrance. Oh well.

Night two. More hooting, scuffling, ect. ‘Surely, they’ll adjust’ we say to each other. Next morning, deeper scratches in drywall, and scratch marks on fancy new door. Oh dear. Oh well.

Night three, more hooting, jostling…etc. In the morning, more varied scratch marks on walls and door as well as actual teeth mark punctures in the fancy ‘faux’ brass door knob. Yes actual holes. Not pretty. Need to rethink.

Resort back to plan B: Dogs move back into kitchen. On the plus side, my flexibility has improved, even without yoga. And the fancy new dog house becomes a fancy storage hut.

Fast forward 8 or 9 months (and just how daft can I be?): I awake in a hot sweaty flash at 2:38 am…zapped with the realization…there is a cabin…a rather nice one…just steps away…meanwhile I’ve been sharing our limited table space with my husband for the past months, negotiating over whose turn it is…

FYI …further commentary will NOT be so heavily ‘dog’ oriented. The fancy dog house bit leads to another story…but I have gone on long enough for now. Stay tuned.