Monday, April 30, 2007

Coming of Age

Well, today my man-boy was more of a man. I had the brakes done on the van - everything complete - last spring. And when we started hearing that squealing sound in February and took it in because I thought it was the CV joint, our mechanic assured us it was the brakes and as it was much too soon to be having that problem, it must just be a defect in putting the squealers in at the factory. If it was too annoying, bring it in and he would grind them down.... But we were busy and we could put up with a little noise after all. And then it started making other sounds... and then my foot started vibrating when I applied the brakes and I began to think that it might be a little more serious than we imagined at first.

Sure enough, when we took it in to Dave again, the brake on the drivers side was down to the rotor. There had been a defect with the calliper and it had got stuck and worn down the brake pads prematurely... This is the garage where Andrew has been doing a mentorship for the last year - going in for 2 days a week to help and observe and learn and it has been awesome and perfect for him! Well, Dave was completely booked until Thursday but clearly we couldn't drive it any more and it is our only vehicle. So he said that Andrew could come in and do the brakes and he would supervise.

So today, my son did my brakes. And they are perfect. Most of the parts were covered by warranty - we only had to buy a rotor. So the whole thing only cost me $50 and a peanut butter mocha from Midian.

All these years of clothing and feeding him are finally paying off....

And seriously, I see the pride in my son's face at what he is able to contribute to our family. No one else in our family can do this kind of thing. This was not a 'make work' project designed to 'teach' him something. He did something that was necessary - that was vitally important. And he knows it. He has just experienced being needed - of being an integral part of our family in a very real way. This is something too many teens are lacking. This is not something that he could have experienced in school the way schools operate right now. Too many teens today feel superfluous and our education system fails them. We spend so much time trying to stuff information into kids' heads and forcing them to retain it and regurgitate it. Yet psychological studies show that what determines your success and happiness in life is not how much you know but how you feel about yourself. He might not yet know his times tables but ask my son how he feels about himself today... He can learn whatever he wants when he is ready to and he knows it.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Garage Sale Success

Well, yesterday was our garage sale for Kaetlyn's insulin pump and we had many miracles. I sit here at the computer looking out at the grey and misty day. This was the weather forcast for yesterday. But from yesterday I have a sunburn on my nose and a reddish v on my chest... It was sunny and beautiful with nary a cloud the entire day!

So many people worked to make yesterday happen. Thank you to Lynn for having it at her house on East Hill and thank you to Monique and Mary Sue who made it all possible and thank you to Jill and Julie and Angela and Dean's parents and Brent's parents and to Annette and both the Karens and everyone! So many of my friends who know me and know Kaetlyn... and strangers who have never met either of us.... And all the people who came and bought things, shared stories about their own diabetes or loved ones who have it and people who paid $5 for a stuffy (we weren't asking that much...) because they wanted to contribute. And it was a huge success. We are well over half way now. We made more than $1,200! Suddenly her pump feels within our grasp! And my heart is full to over flowing with gratitude for the love and support shown to my daughter!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What I Remember

It is interesting what we remember, isn't it? I was thinking about this, amongst other things, as I sat in a community meeting about eating locally (where were you, Monique?). Looking around the room, I saw several people I knew from my almost 13 years in Vernon. I saw one woman farther down the row who I remember but who does not remember me. For me, she is unforgettable.

I met her when I was in the hospital with an 8 month old baby having just broken both my legs. It was a shocking situation for me to be in. I was stunned by the fact that days before I had been running and jumping and now I couldn't even get up. She was one of my nurses. She had been my nurse for several days. Her manner was brusque and bossy and she annoyed me. She seemed insensitive.

A young physiotherapist had been assigned to help me figure out how to manoeuver myself with my arms now that I couldn't use my legs. When you break your knees, you don't even get a cast, so I could absolutely only put weight on my arms. Anyone who knows me, knows that the nickname 'small arms' aptly applies to my upper body strength. I was now supposed to lift myself up by my arms to transport myself from bed to commode or bed to wheelchair. This was my second session and it was not going well. The physio was busy talking to another physio. They had both recently had babies and were gabbing about their children as she absentmindedly told me what to do. I was flustered and desperately trying to do what she said and failing because I was too weak but she barely noticed me and was awkwardly shoving and manipulating me as I got more and more discouraged. She left and for the first time since the accident, I was in tears. I couldn't see how I was ever going to be able to go home, how I would be able to manage myself at all. I sat there behind the curtain with tears of impotence running down my face. And my nurse saw. And she understood. And she helped me. She told me I was going to be able to do it. She got another physio who was much better at teaching me how to lever myself so I could move around. And I began to see that I would be able to do it.

Her kindness and compassion when she saw my vulnerability is something I will never forget. In the 6 years since then, I have seen her around town maybe 5 or 6 times and she doesn't remember me any more but I will never forget her. Every time I see her face, I remember her kindness to me when I so desperately needed it. Every time I see her, I am filled with gratitude and love for her and I hope that she feels it coming through the air.... (and yes, I have told her in person, the first time I met her after I was out of the hospital, she was embarrassed to be so thanked and flustered but I could tell that it meant something to her, too, to be acknowledged like that)

And it just got me to thinking. I am sure I couldn't spot that physio who so carelessly worked on me without seeing me. Within months she was out of my mind and my memory. But I will never forget that nurse.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Born Again Suzuki

So, I just had an awe inspiring moment in Rhiannon's Friday violin lesson. Now that the festivals are over, she is eager to move on to the next pieces in her book. And the next piece for her is Perpetual Motion. So her teacher was patiently showing her the beginning of the song and said, "Now, do you think you can copy me?" and Rhiannon says, "I can play it, watch, " and before the teacher could show her anything, she played the first half of the song. Her teacher and I are sitting there a little stunned and she says, "and I can play the rest, too" and she finishes it. Of course there is a lot of polishing to be done but she had never played that song before. Ever. She had only listened to it a couple hundred times. She didn't read the music, she just played it.

I am so grateful that we have found these Suzuki lessons - because it could have been anything. I knew nothing about different methods when I started looking for violin lessons. What I am grateful for is that it is based on how the brain works and how we actually learn. We learn to talk by hearing those around us. We learn to play music by listening. In fact, learning music at a young age has the same effect on the brain as being bilingual. (in my psycholinguistics course, I did a 20,000 word research paper on the effects of bilingualism on the brain)

I have been thinking about this a lot lately - the way the brain works and how we learn. We have been inculcated by the school system for several generations now. We have come to think that learning happens in school as we memorize and regurgitate. Often when skeptics talk about 'unschooling' they say, "yes, but who would voluntarily learn grammar or...." Because we have experienced that learning these things is deadly boring and dull. And we have totally bought into that learning it the way they teach it in school is the only way to do it. These methods sprung from a society that was largely illiterate and those who could read, often couldn't afford to own very many books if any at all. Times have changed. Our society is literate and we have easy access to all kinds of books.

But I have watched this miracle who is my youngest daughter - my only child who has never been to school - and she has astounded even me. Her voracious reading has led to voracious writing. And during her reading, she has come to me and said, "what is that little thing?" "That's a comma," I reply. "What is it for?" and so on. And then punctuation has begun to appear in her writing. Recently while Dean was in Nashville, she sent him an e-mail that was almost perfectly punctuated with hardly a spelling error. What? No spelling lists to memorize? No spelling tests? No grammar lessons?

No. Because that is not how we actually learn to spell and punctuate. We learn those things by reading. I learned that getting a minor in linguistics. Yet the school system clings to its ancient methods and we (as a society) buy into it and we fear that our kids wouldn't learn otherwise even though that is not how we learn. I know when I did grammar tests in school, I never memorized any rules, I simply tried to figure out what felt right or what sounded right to me (after sitting through mind numbing lectures on grammar and punctuation). I hardly ever got one wrong because I already knew the grammar. I learned it from reading....

Rhiannon is a constant unfolding of understanding in me of how we do actually learn. And as I understand it more, I see how far off the mark, traditional methods are. How much time is wasted in school, persisting in methods that research has long proved faulty. How much of their (students) lives is wasted away in classrooms when they could be living! And I yearn to make a difference...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Garage Sale

So it is set. The first garage sale to raise money for Kaetlyn's insulin pump will be Saturday, April 28 from 8am - 3pm or so at Lynn's house which is 3001 - 22 St. That is on East Hill at the top of suicide hill. Thank you so much Lynn for allowing us to do it there. There will also be hot dogs and drinks for sale cooked on Lynn's BBQ. So what can you do? Got some stuff you would like to donate? Want to help sell things? Got a table we can use? Want to help clean and price things? E-mail me agordon-smith at shaw dot ca. Or call me 503-5416. And thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone for all their help and support and encouragement. You will never know how much it means to me to receive it for myself and to see my daughter held in the hands of her community. Your love and kindness goes a long ways in healing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I have the good fortune of having many amazing friends who inspire me and encourage me. Lately the work of one of my very dear friends has really been making me ponder. For the website for the Inner World School (our on-line division) she has developed some lessons. Anyone can download lesson 1 for free and if you are a member of the Inner World School, you can receive all the lessons (one every month) at no cost (other than membership). All the money for these lessons goes to support the Inner World School.

And they are amazing. My friend, Bozenka often amazes me but these lessons are absolutely brilliant. I loved lesson 1 and I am blown away by lesson 2. It took me maybe 10 days to print out the lesson after I received it but once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. And the ideas have been simmering in my brain ever since. I have been pondering - her words sinking down into the depths of my shadows. Finally some things make sense to me that I have struggled with for so long. Finally I understand some of my patterns. You've got to check it out! You can find lesson one by going to and following the link to the lessons.

So what is lesson 2 about? It is about how we become wounded and about how and why we wound others in turn. Brilliantly in a way that makes me feel like I have always known it, Bozenka explains how this happens. For me, this has been one of the hardest things for me to see about myself - to see how I have wounded others - especially my children whom I love beyond any love I have ever experienced. And yet, despite my knowledge and my training, I have still hurt them in some ways. Realizing this and seeing it surely has been agony. And in lesson 2 there is so much hope - a way of looking at things and tools that takes away judgement and offers real healing.

I am so grateful to have Bozenka in my life!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Quality Family Time

Bribed with a pan of cinnamon buns from Friesens and the promise of DQ afterwards, my gang agreed to help me out with all the gardening around here. It was so much fun working together and boy did we get a lot done. Its amazing how much quicker it goes with 8 hands instead of two... Kaetlyn really got into raking!

Rhiannon planted some tulip bulbs and helped to water everything...

Mr Muscles/Fixit fixed up this bigger wheelbarrow and brought us loads of dirt. This flower bed is now resuscitated and ready to be replanted.

And of course it wouldn't have been complete without a leap into the huge pile of leaves....

My kind of quality family time.... 3 hours of yard work....

Friday, April 13, 2007

At Home Day

I always think that when Dean is gone that things will slow down - no window washing going on, I have the van at my disposal - no fancy arrangements to be made for transportation.... but it never is slower. I have the van at my disposal and suddenly, my backlogged list of things to do when I have the van.... And in my efforts to reduce my own emissions, I try to make only one trip and get as much done as possible. So that has meant Rhiannon and I have been gone for big parts of the day. I've got a lot accomplished.... It has been really busy. This picture of my dance class of whirling dervishes best captures the feel of our week. We've done a lot of fun things but it has been a bit of a whirl! (my class was so full of energy yesterday afternoon that most of my pics look like this and I invented a new dance exercise. You lay on your back on the floor and dance with your arms and legs.... necessity is the mother of invention after all)

By Friday, we are both a little worn out. My social butterfly was begging for an 'at home' day despite an invitation to join other homeschoolers on a bike ride and her regularly scheduled violin lesson. So home we have stayed (well, almost). Rhiannon has laid on the couch for most of the morning watching some new movies from the library and her grandparents. (she loves Watership Down) I don't usually allow so much tv time but it seemed to be in order this 'relax' day.

For myself, I have carved a little space for myself in the 'homeschooling room' which has mostly been the 'unused' room since we moved in just over a year ago now.... It was has housed all the boxes that were waiting for their place in our new home and then it just became a dumping ground for things that had no other place to go. So finally this week, amidst all that whirl, I cleared the table enough to have a space for journalling and sitting and doing my own paper work. I have loved sitting there and writing and contemplating and planning. Hopefully by this weekend I will empty that box on my table and I'll have even MORE space...

So after that nice, contemplative beginning to my day and a bit of socializing and philosophizing at Friesens about homeschooling, I set to work on my gardens. Of course our 'at home' day is the day of worst weather - chilly and overcast after all the sunshine of the past few days when we were flying around.... I have been working on a flower bed long neglected by previous tenants and overgrown with weeds and crab grass. My new philosophy in gardening is ease. So instead of fighting those weeds, I have been 'working with' them. I didn't even attempt to pull them up... I just put a layer of newspaper and a layer of fall leaves and then a new layer of top soil. I have transplanted some plants from my friend's garden and today I discovered this... Remember that beautiful peony that I photographed for Laura? Here it is through the newspaper and leaves and new topsoil.... Just for you, Laura! Although that peony's persistence has inspired me to use a much thicker layer of newspaper in the rest of the bed... cardboard even...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

West Jet flight 85

I just got the phone call from Nashville. Dean made it there... After all of that driving and staying up all night and tiredness, his passport never came. In fact the passport website doesn't even show it as being received by them (but mine does....) And we have not been able to get through to the passport office by phone. If it is ever not busy, the automated thing says that there are too many people on hold and call back later.... yah, right!

So his trip to Nashville, took some arranging... After 4 hours on the internet on various sites, Ronni and I worked out a pretty good alternative plan. He flew from Kelowna to Vancouver and then took a shuttle that went directly from the Vancouver (Richmond... it always gets called the vancouver airport but as a former richmondite, I have to point out that it actually is in Richmond...) airport to the Seatac airport where he took a flight on US Airways to Nashville Tennessee. He was so anxious going, worrying about all the things that could go wrong.... He is a fussy traveller anyways and easily gets overwhelmed. He left at 1:45 yesterday afternoon and he got to Nashville at 8:24 this morning (6:24 our time). He just called me moments ago and now I can relax. I sent him calming vibes every time I thought of him.

He is excited to be there and finish the recording started here. And to be somewhere like that - where so much music is made, and close to Elvis' home and a Gibson guitar factory. I am happy for him and excited for him.

I've said good bye to him many times as he leaves on the road. Usually for gigging and he has gone on 2 week tours and 1 week tours but mostly he goes for the weekend. It is a normal pattern for us and I hardly think about it. Sure I miss him when he is gone for more than a weekend and sometimes I wish he was here to do some weekend stuff with more often. But this is different. This was more than saying good bye to him for the 6 days he will be gone (home on Monday). While they are finishing their recording with this well respected and talented producer, he has also set up meetings with some industry people - like the guys that promoted the Dave Mathews Band for example. The fact is that for Dean to fulfill his Dream and get the acknowledgement and recognition that he deserves, there will be a time when I see very little of him because he will be gone a lot. I know that his dreams always include me and our family, I have no doubt about that, he often talks about how all of our lives will be and I know what it would mean to him to have that kind of success and to be able to provide so well for us doing what he really loves and is so good at. But it is bittersweet for me. I miss him already.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Sunday

We had a wonderful Easter. My friend, Ronni and her daughter came on their spring break from Calgary and stayed for Easter. While it was snowing and -12 in Calgary, we were getting too hot at Kaetlyn's bake sale. It is always so wonderful when Ronni comes and always so hard to let her go. Everything just seems easier with an extra set of hands that don't need to be told what to do in the kitchen and someone to visit with.

Having another young one here helped to put some of that kid energy into our Easter hunt.... here they are:
Searching for baskets....

finding them

Trying to look like you are too cool for Easter....

And just plain enjoying treats!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Last Sunday

This week I was having some computer issues. I don't know what it was but my pictures wouldn't download from Rhiannon's camera. Luckily yesterday it suddenly started working again.... I have no idea why.... And all week, this post was frustrated and I couldn't post anything else because I kept trying to download the pictures so I could blog this.....

So here it is. Another Sunday in Kal Lake Park. This time with my TWO favourite hikers! Rhiannon wanted to take her bike along which we left at the top of the switch backs like we did with Andrew's bike when he was that age.

It was a gorgeous day and Kal Lake has got to be one of the most beautiful lakes ever. I never tire of gazing at it.

Father and daughter with their facination with water no matter how cold it is (but Rhiannon didn't bring or wear her bathing suit this time...)

Here he is, the man of my dreams, the love of my life....

And I love this picture. I always say you can often tell a homeschooling child by how they are dressed. No one has told her that you don't mix all those floral patterns.... I love it!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bake Sale Report

Well, Kaetlyn's bake sale happened yesterday and it went pretty well. Her friends and mine made lots of goodies to sell and they sold most of them and got lots of donations. They made about $200 in 4 hours. Rhiannon really wanted to help out her sister. So she brought along her violin and opened her case and did some busking. In less than 2 hours she made $150 for Kaetlyn. She was so proud of herself that she was able to do that for her sister. She did have a bit of a problem, looking rather warily at strange donaters (they weren't really strange - just strange to her...).... kind of glaring.... So we appointed Megan as her manager who stood near and said thank you and explained that she was raising money for her big sister's insulin pump and Rhiannon just had to play violin which she did very well.... Its kind of funny, I can't get her to play that much in her practises....

We did all this in front of Safeway. The staff at Safeway were truly wonderful - did everything they could to help and came and bought some baking and put money in Rhiannon's violin case. I'm thinking another day of busking with some friends in conjunction with selling some children's art might be a great way to raise some more money for Kaetlyn.....

SO THAT BRINGS OUR TOTAL TO......$1,910.00!!!!! THANK YOU EVERYONE! $4,090.00 to go. We're 1/3 of the way there!

And I will repeat the information for ordering this card....

And to start off the fund raising, our good friend, Bozenka has donated all profits from this art card to Kaetlyn's fund. This card is made from a painting that Bozenka painted for Kaetlyn 4 years ago. She sells it with her other art cards ( This one is the diabetes fairy.

There is an option when you are ordering to include shipping or not. If you live in Vernon, don't include shipping. The cards are printed here in Vernon and I can ship them to you within 3 days of ordering.

The card is available in the following sizes:

Small - 4 3/8" x 2 3/4" $2.50

Medium - 5 1/2" x 4 1/4" $4.5o

Large - 8 1/2" x 5 1/2" $6.00

Extra Large (poster) - 8.5" x 11" $19.95

And this is the inscription on the back of the card. Her name is Kaetlyn because she is the portrait of Kaetlyn, a magical child with diabetes. She is sweetness and inspiration even at times when it is not easy for her. Each rose extends one of Kaetlyn's personal victories to you. Remember Kaetlyn is a magical fairy. She gives hope for tomorrow, courage and wonder for today because like every child with diabetes, she can.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bake Sale

So Kaetlyn's friends have organized a bake sale at the new Safeway (Vernon Square if you are newer to Vernon than the Safeway) for this Saturday, April 7. Her and her friends are going to 'man' it (girl it?) and they are doing some baking but I know they will need help. Anyone up for doing some baking? Cookies? Cakes? Muffins? Whatever you feel like. Maybe I'll whip up some peanut brittle for the Saturday before Easter....

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Last night Redfish played up at Silver Star at the Grizzly Den last night - their way of saying thank you to those up there who helped make their recording stint up there possible and enjoyable. Dennis Laurence organized it and is managing the Grizzly Den. He has been a steadfast supporter of Redfish since about 3 months into their existence and he has been the organizer of some of the coolest and funnest Redfish gigs in their 9 year history. And this was no exception. Although the space was small, the ceiling was low (well, not really low but lower than the high-ceilinged places like Monashees or Okanagan Landing Hall and places like that...) and the room had a warm sound - not all echo-ey and full of reverberations that hurt my ears.

I was there by myself so I had no one but the other 'fish wives' to hang out with. And I danced and I danced. And there was a great crowd dancing - great energy. There is always a special energy up there on top of the mountain, surrounded by snow, trees and other mountain peaks. And I danced and I danced and sweat was running down my temples and my back and underneath my breasts and I danced. And I was lost in the sheer joy of music and of dancing. I danced in my sock feet which is my favourite way to dance. And I was completely unconscious of how my body was moving. I was the music, the beat, the sweet guitar, the thrumming bass. My body moved and I was swirling and moving and my spirit soared in a way that has nothing to do with alcohol - only the mood alteration of the music.

And high above it all, I thought about dancing. I thought about this ecstatic experience. Is this what 'holy rollers' were trying to achieve - this oneness with energy? And all my dancing experiences were there with me. That room with the high ceilings and high windows where I took my first dance lessons at 5 years old - creative dance. I use some of the same exercises with the kids in my dance classes (the fairy game was always how we ended class). Then my first ballet class when I was 6 in the community hall in downtown Prince George - across from the coliseum. I was hooked. Ballet was to be my passion for the rest of my life. Although I no longer dance it, I am still in-love with it. But I always loved all kinds of dancing. I loved it when we learned how to square dance in school and different folk circle dances. I even like line dancing (although I wouldn't seek it out).

And I remembered the dances when I was a teenager. One thing mormons really know how to do is dance. Sometimes there was a dance at the church almost every week end. And we danced and danced like we did last night - Victor Quickenden, Dennis Santos, Dean Gregson, Karine, Mary, Lisa, Jill and I - to the strains of Doug and the Slugs, the Powder Blues, "Boys in the Bright White Sports Car", the Beach Boys and the Beatles.... We danced and danced like I did last night and they were all there with me, like we used to be, in my mind. Is it any wonder I married the DJ?

What makes a good dance experience? Good music, good acoustics and lots of fellow dancers who are all in a good mood. If there are not enough dancers, I feel self conscious. If there is a 'pick up' vibe, I cannot relax. Last night everything came together. It was the best time dancing I have had in a long time. I spent most of the night dancing in front of the guitarist who is never sexier to me than when he is playing guitar. The closest we can come to dancing together at moments like that.

This joy of dancing is what I strive to achieve with the little dancers who come to my class. (my next set of dance classes started this last week) When you let children dance and bring out what is inside of them, it is amazing what you see - inspiring, beautiful, soulful. And last night I was in touch with my inner dancer. And today I am recharged, rested and not stiff at all!