Monday, December 10, 2007

carrot soup

45 minutes to prepare. 4-5 servings.

Bring to a boil:

  • 2 lbs. carrots, peeled or scrubbed, and chopped

  • 4 cups stock or water (I used stock)

  • 1 &1/2 tsp. salt

  • optional: 1 medium potato, chopped (for heartier soup) (I didn't use)

Cover and simmer 12-15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.


  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1-2 small cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/3 cup chopped cashews or almonds ( I used almonds because Arianna loves almonds)in butter with a little salt, until onions are clear.

Puree everything together in a blender until smooth. Return the puree to a kettle or double-boiler and whisk in one of the following:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup yogurt or buttermilk plus a little honey
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sour cream (I used this option, but next time I'm trying the buttermilk option)

Heat very slowly.

Seasoning combinations to choose from:

1. 2 pinches nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. dried mint, dash of cinnamon (I used this combination)

2. 1/2 to 1 tsp each of thyme, margoram, and basil

3. 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger root, sauted in butter plus a dash of sherry, (add just before serving)

Garnish with grated apple or toasted nuts or yogurt or sour cream. (I used sour cream because that's what was on hand).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

In the beginning

Have you ever had a deep desire for something, but were never able to describe it or give it a name?

Have you ever wondered about the possibilities of doing several things as a career other than what you are doing right now?

Ever been puzzled with why it is that you are competent or even really quite good at many skills but not really outstanding at any one?

I've had all of these questions for as long as I can remember. I've often thought that at any given moment, quite outside of my planning or actions, that one special opportunity or moment or meaningful..."thing"...will appear; as if guided by God as a part of some ordained plan.

It's a bit paralyzing when people tell you, in the context of faith, that they expect that one day great things will come from you. The tendency is to wait for God to do something rather than doing something with what you already know you are skilled in. You plod along as always; never trying to reach the next level of achievement because you are waiting for "it" to happen, because others are believing it will happen. Or so they said. It ends up being more of a curse than anything else. Or at least it was for me until I grew into some self confidence. Then some form of regret sets in because of all the wasted time. More time is wasted being remorseful.

A few months ago, very dear friends of ours had us over for dinner where a wonderful soup was served as one of the courses. Carrot soup. I asked for the recipe and was told that I already had it. In fact, it was something I possessed for more than two years. It was part of a cookbook which the hostess had given me one of the first times we met.

The first thing I did when I returned home was rifle through the cookbook shelf to find my copy. Sure enough...there it was. M00sew00d C00kb00k, and on p.28 was the recipe for the most amazing soup I had ever tasted. I instantly knew that I wanted to be a part of something larger than one recipe. I wanted a community. I saw a building that was filled with people, food, music, theatre, wood, stone, warmth. What the hell was in those carrots?

The idea is a collective. A collection of people who enjoy getting together to cook and eat, and who want to engage in a community project. This project could be a collection of many things, but the core of it will be a restaurant that provides meals which are nutritionally balanced and aesthetically pleasing. And at this stage I'm thinking that it will largely be vegetarian.

The plan is to grow this project over the next 14 years or so and watch what it becomes. I do not plan on doing it alone. I will not do it alone...that would defeat the purpose. I will wait for others to be assimilated...into the BORG. Brian's Organic Rice-eating Groupies.

First on the list is simply to cook, and to do it in community with others. We've started having happy hour every Friday at 5:00 where we will have various people over for something to drink, as is custom in a happy hour. But what I plan to do is to try several new recipes each week and come up with a tested list of things which I feel will work well in "the collective". I've bought nearly all the M00sew00d cookbooks now, and there are quite a few of them. My goal is to work through most of the recipes and share them with as many people as I can. The recipes are not only nutritious, but are well thought through and delicious. You'd never really think of them as vegetarian.

Next in the plan, and this will go on as the initial part is going on, is to keep my eyes opened for a plot of land and a building. My dream is a place in town where I can move a building onto. The building will be an old community centre, schoolhouse, church, firehall, etc., from another community where it is no longer appreciated...and for a real bargain. I'll buy it for a song and move it onto a new foundation on the plot of land which I will have also bought for a similar tune.

So, I guess for a while, this will turn into somewhat of a food blog where I will share some of the great food I will be experiencing. It will also be a place for you to share with me something that you wish for me to experience; food-related or otherwise.

I never thought that I could be so easily enticed by a dangling carrot.

Next post: Carrot Soup

new focus

I'm a long ways away from early retirement.

14 years, in fact. 24 years from regular retirement.

That makes me feel good because I like what I do and I think I'll keep liking it for at least that long. But when it comes time to make those kinds of decisions, I don't want to make them in a panic.

Joyce and I have been to see the financial planners who tell us what we need to do from now until then, but it's all about money. He asked me what I did for a living and, after I told him I was a teacher, he said I guess your pretty much set then. I wasn't sure what to think about that. Was that good, was that bad? I later discovered that all he meant was that between now and my retirement, my income, aside from new contracts and Bill Gates sending me a tonne of cash for forwarding those emails, would stay pretty much the same. So we had to come up with a financial plan with what I could count on.

But, again, that's all about money. I hate it.

It's been about a year now since seeing the planner, and, well, things are pretty much the same...just like he said they'd be.

One thing has changed. I've begun to think about the time in my life when I won't be teaching. I've had visions of me standing and staring out the window just like I do with the first week of summer holidays. No plan for the day, just relax. Well before too long I'm driving Joyce crazy with the pacing and the staring. I'm sure I'll end up with a freshly sharpened #2HB pencil jabbed into the base of my neck before enjoying too much time at the window.

A couple of summers ago I realized that I had this tendancy, so I came up a plan for the entire summer long before the summer actually arrived. The plan took into account many of my passions and the things that I always wished that I had time for while school was in session. The transition was seamless. The plan actually went into effect a fews days before the summer started. Effortless motion from work to "rest".

So now, thinking about time on a much larger graphic organizer, I wish to plan, over the next 14 or so years, for a transition from work to a "whatever" and chronicling the evolution here. There is a definite direction. Like an idea with it's arms opened wide to embrace other ideas along the way. I'll do the forward motion and as you enter into my community we'll dine together on the present and the future.

The direction: A Philosophy.

Next post: In the beginning.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

popular opinion

"Mr. Hildebrand, we should take the Coke machines out of our school, because I heard that Coke supports the gays."

And still...we have to fight to get religious instruction out of the Public School system.

Monday, July 23, 2007

prince of tides

About a billion years ago, I was heavily involved in triathlon training. The running and the cycling always seemed to be the easiest things in the world to find time for. The swimming was always weak. I usually started to panic two weeks before the season started, and then suddenly bought a membership to the pool. I never made it there more than two or three times for the early morning group swim...and then never was able to swim more than four lengths without stopping for 5 minutes. When it came to race day, I was usually one of the last out of the water.

Like I said...that was about a billion years ago. The tides have now turned. Swimming has become almost as natural as breathing, and the running and the cycling have all but ceased.

I was asked the other week if I would be interested in filling in a vacant spot in the swimming portion of a triathlon relay. This is a triathlon I had done all on my own oh so very long ago. But now all I had to do was swim...sounds too good to be true. "I'll do it. I'd love to."

I couldn't believe how anxious I became after I said yes. I was glad that it was really short notice, because I couldn't sleep, and I was driving my wife crazy. The night before was crazy...tossing, turning...more turning.

I was worried about lake swimming. All my training had been done in a pool. Very simple format...back and forth in an easy to negotiate lane, perhaps with one other person sharing the space.

The lake is unfamiliar. The lake is cold. I would be wearing an untested wetsuit, and there were about a hundred others attacking the space at the same time. The waiver I signed mentioned something about possible dangers in the swim portion: kicking, pushing, punching, scratching, drowning... How nice.

The race is now behind me and the t-shirt and finisher's medal are in hand. My time was only about 2 minutes slower than it would have been in a pool, so I am actually quite pleased.

There is something that tends to happen to a fella, though, at an event such as this. It's called inspiration. I have a feeling that the tides could be turning once again.

Friday, July 20, 2007

quit measuring already

Some people choose to fritter their time away with Facebook, and others, like me and a few million others worldwide, have chosen to waste countless nighttime hours roleplaying on World of Warcraft. Mine is the make-believe life of Sammus, named after my youngest boy Sammy. Sammus is outfitted here with his Acrobatic Staff of Frozen Wrath, capable of inflicting serious damage...for a fancy stick anyway.

In the real world, this is Sammy on a sunny July Wednesday afternoon out on a fishing trip with the family, including grandma and grandpa. He is equipped here with the Zebco Staff of Water Wasteland, capable of inflicting SERIOUS damage to unsuspecting weedmonsters within 20 metres.

Monday, April 23, 2007

around the world in 4900 days

One of my oldest nephews is near the end of his six week trip around Europe. A few days ago he was in Barcelona and was planning on staying there for a few days before taking a boat to somewhere in Italy. I remember well being 20ish and doing something quite similar, but I never did make it to Barcelona. It's now a destination on my life goals list.

I thought I'd do a little advance planning for the trip so I entered the "from" and "to" into Google maps. It seemed as though it was going to be a fairly straight forward trip, until I read #24 of the instructions on the left.

I currently swim about 9km per week. If I start now, I should be stepping out of the water on the shores of Spain just in time for my 53rd birthday.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

manitoba spring

Now that most of the larger piles of snow are but flat areas of ice, Manitoban's are out and about and doing the springtime jig.

Yesterday, my children spent the evening combing through the yard and picking up all of the winter garbage and whatever else they could find that was left over from a large town ice rink directly behind our house. A large garbage bag full of tins and candy wrappers, and 16 (and counting) hockey pucks.

The sun was out in full force yesterday and finally did some of the necessary thawing. It's such a wonderfull sight to see the town coming to life. People are starting to show themselves on walks. They may have been walking all winter long, but the sun never stayed in the sky long enough for us to see them. Now it's light well past 8:00pm.

Sammy thought that it would be a good time to go out and catch butterflies. He spent much of the day swooping the net through the air in hopes of catching one. I told him that it may be a little early for butterflies. The look on his face is telling enough what he thought of that

This is the year that we get a puppy...maybe two. We finally found a local breeder of mini australian shepherds. We've been put on the waiting list for the next litter late this summer or early fall. That will give us time to get the house and yard ready for a dog.
I'm hoping for a male black or red tri, and the girls are hoping for a female blue merle. I'm sure we'd quickly fall in love with whatever we get.

Are there any butterflies where you are?

crazy jane

Happy 11th birthday Jane-Jane.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

shades of red

Happy Birthday Micah Brian Superhero!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

spring project

A number of months ago I started a home renovation project. It was one of those that kind of got bigger and bigger as time went along.

Can I have a show of hands for those that have seen a project that didn't become much more than intended. I didn't think so.

Joyce and I moved out of our bedroom on the main floor. I gutted the entire thing right down to the studs. The room had very poor wiring so I redid all of it before putting in all new drywall, flooring, mouldings and paint.

The room took on a new purpose. Joyce needed a sewing room and I needed a desk, so I had to make one that fit my needs and the space where the closet used to be.

I remembered some of Cream's great tile work from over a year ago and wanted to try my hand at breaking my own share, so I used my router to gouge out a groove in the desk top and used all the broken tile bits to create a bit of an inlay.

That didn't seem to be quite enough, so I did a bit of a cartoonish painting of a classroom with me in the middle of a lesson. If you look out the window you will see a man sitting in the park on a bench playing guitar...which is what I would rather be doing in the springtime.

Half of the desk will be used for the computer and the other for whatever else it is that teachers


Oh, and if you're wondering where we're sleeping these days, we didn't think that the kids would mind if we slept on the floor of their bedrooms for a while. Joyce's blogging privacy is more important afterall. A woman's got to have space to be creative.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

coffee nation

Have you ever wished that you'd have come up with an idea first? When you see one, you sometimes want to smack your forehead with an open fist and say, "Now what was keeping ME from thinking of that?"

Talk around the staffroom table led to one person saying that every time we have trouble with something, it should be an opportunity for a new product. My synical mind immediately pictured ejector seats for student desks. Neh...that would never work. There's a ceiling in the way. What we need to think about is something truly unique...something truly Canadian.

Now why didn't I think of that? But that's not going to stop me from wishing others well during their times of success, Oh no. I'm going to do everything in my power to support the entrepreneurship of good Canadians.

Therefore, the first 20 people who email me with their complete mailing address and the words, "Brian, you make me so hot, but not in a sweaty kind of way" will receive one shiney new rimroller in the mail. Keep in mind that I'm a grade school teacher. I'll be checking for spelling.

Aaaaand, GO!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Do you ever think that people care about what you read; so much so that you want to post a picture of your bedside table and the stack of books you are pretending to read to make yourself look good?

I often get really excited about the books I'm reading or planning to read. Occassionally I will gather them together to gain some perspective of where I am going with all of this. Sometimes I find that it is time to buy some new ones. Other times I need to either quit buying and read what I've already got, or head in a new direction.

This time, what I have on the go is exciting for me. There is one that I want to reread, but the others have all been recommended to me by friends. I'm mostly through Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness. So far it is fantastic. I'm waiting to get to the part where she gives a mention of my late brother-in-law. They used to be sweethearts. Aparently, she would drive out to the farm and she and Ken would spend the day driving around on the field in the tractor stuff. It makes me feel like I kind of know her.

The others are not light reads, so I don't imagine to get through them quickly. I'm the kind of reader that needs to take heaviness palatable chunks...with some robust Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps.

What's in your stack? I'd actually really like to know. Perhaps I'll add some of yours to mine.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

preaching to the children's choir

I'm unapologetic about singing theme songs out loud in my classroom. However, it may be a little less embarrassing if I would sing something other than themes from preschool children's programming; but what's a simple guy supposed to do...

My grade 5 and 6 students cower in their desks every time I announce my entrance into the classroom by singing Mail Song from Blue's Clues

Here's the mail
It never fails
It makes me wanna wag my tail
When it comes I wanna wail...MAIL!!!

I have only one preschool child left at home. Sammy. His favourite show is George Shrinks. We LOVE singing the theme song to that one. I'm usually the one who starts it, and he is quick to join in. I'm sure that everyone else in the house is completely tired of hearing it, but I JUST CAN'T HELP IT.

Kids these days have a lot to be thankful for in their T.V. programming. Gone are the days when a kid's life was all about obedience and conformity. These days, they can be whatever they want to be. All it takes is "want to" because they already have what it takes.

Kids all around T.V. land chant these words each and every day:

Blue's Clues
Now it's time for so long
But we'll sing just one more song
Thanks for doing your part
You sure are smart!
You know, with me and you
And our friend Blue
We can do anything that we wanna do!

Blue's Clues
You know what to do!
Sit down in our Thinking Chair and think...think...think!
Cause when we use our mind, take a step at a time
We can do anything...that we wanna do!

We Figured It Out
We sat on down
Figured it out
What Blue's Clues are all about
Hey, you know what?
You're really smart!

George Shrinks
Well, the boy is kinda small
But it doesn't show at all
Cuz he's always acting tall
George Shrinks, George Shrinks
He's called

If a problem should be found
He's the boy to have around
Something big or something small
George Shrinks, George Shrinks
He's called
George always seems to find a way
To make his dreams come true each day

Rolie, Polie, Olie
He's short and smart and round

Tractor Tom
We couldn't do it without you.

Everyday when you're walking down the street, everybody that you meet
Has an original point of view...
Get together and make things better
By working together!
It's a simple message and it comes from the heart
Believe in youself (echo: believe in yourself)
Well thats the place to start (to start)

Bob the Builder
Bob the Builder!
Can we fix it?
Bob the Builder!
Yes we can!

There is only one problem with all of this positive self-speak. Sometimes kids who really have no clue at all about something, think that they really do. If you don't believe me, there's nothing like an evening watching American Idol auditions to set you straight.
Thank goodness for Little Bear though and the programme's keeping up with the times. Cat and Little Bear are a lot nicer than Simon, but could perhaps be a little more honest.

Friday, March 16, 2007

O'Brian the Mennonite

I have the rare privelege of knowing two men named Roderick. That's actually their formal name. Most of the time, people will know a Rod or a Rodney, but rarely a Roderick. And rarer still, two.

Every other Thursday, one of the Rodericks and I get together and have a guitar night. We meet at his house, close the door to his office, set out our guitars and the chips, and he pours the Scotch. That's our little arrangement. I provide the musical guidance and he provides the drink. He says that the better he gets at playing guitar, the better the scotch gets. I suggested that perhaps we should meet more speed things up a bit.

This Thursday I was running a little late after work and was looking forward to getting home and just putting my feet up. When I arrived home Joyce told me that Rod called and wanted me to call him back as soon as I got in. Something about going to the city to listen to some Irish music. I returned the call and he said he'd be over in 15 minutes to pick me up.

We drove to a part of the city I rarely see and were able to park nearly directly in front of the club's entrance. It was a small side entrance which immediately turned into stairs going up to the left. The room was large and homey. Two things immediately stuck out; the stage straight ahead by the fireplace, and the bar at the far right. The bar had a few of those decorative beer levers for pouring pints of Guinness and Smithwicks. I learned just a few days prior that Smithwicks is actually pronounced Smithicks. No w. I proudly answered the what'll ya have with Smithicks, please. At least I hope I remembered to say please. I was concentrating pretty hard on getting the beer correct. I didn't want to stand out too much.

We found a table near the front of the room where we'd be able to see the stage properly. Rod thought that the concert started at 7:00. We were just in time.

Looking around the room at some of the others seated, and still others arriving, gave me smile. Green hats, shirts, suspenders, and sashes. Guinness pride was everywhere, and well in hand. Everyone seemed to have their Friday faces on. I had on black jeans, black t-shirt and a Protestant orange vest over the shirt. I became quite conscious of the vest the more Rod spoke. He mentioned the lyrics to an old Irish tune he had learned as a lad where people were defined by the orange and the green. A glance around the room quickly reinforced the distinction between the two faiths. A map on the wall, lovingly made from metal by a member who teaches metal shops, clearly defined the poeple area groups. The people in the room were wearing their faith on their green sleeves. It felt a little like Christmas. I was beginning to feel a little out of place, despite my proper pronunciations. Rod said that if I got into a fight, he would be in my corner, which was way over there somewhere. Rather than leaving to avoid persecution, I removed the vest. I was all Johnny Cash.

The evening was billed Traditional Night. The club memebers all knew what that meant. Irish fiddle tunes, chants, stories, yarns, and poems. They seemed to keep the star performers for the later evening. The Irish dancers, fully adorned in dress and curls, took the stage and shook the second level floor. I was thinking Riverdance while everyone else was thinking Traditional Night.

Remembering it was only Thursday, and the pints being empty anyways, we decided it was time to leave to ensure a proper bedtime. If we timed it correctly, we'd be home by 11:00. The highways out of the city were quiet and as we drove I wondered about the evening and thought about Rod and where he's from. Rod's an islander. A Newly Found Land by some wild well-armed seamen with circular shields in the year 1000. They didn't didn't stay long, however, as they didn't get along with the others who had already found it thousands of years prior to their finding it.

I mentioned to Rod that it must be nice to know where he's from. I said that it was a little confusing for me because I don't seem to have a homeland. I have a definite culture, but we're a little displaced. The Mennonites have been all over the place. Holland, Germany, Austria, Russia, and now the U.S. and Canada. It's hard to know what land I'm connected to. It's hard to know the answer to the question, where are you from? I'm from wherever we weren't persecuted for wearing our faith on our sleeves. We find someone else's land for a while until the one's who found it first begin to protest. Then, rather than taking off our orange for a while to avoid conflict, we leave.

I know gambling is against my colours, but I'm willing to bet that we've perhaps missed out on some fine Traditional Nights because we were too quick to leave.

Thanks for sharing, Roderick.

Friday, March 02, 2007

question #4: you're my inspiration

All the way from somewhere in Ontario, Canada comes a question from Christine.

"I would like to know about the person who has inspired you the most."

One person immediately came to mind. My wife Joyce.

Joyce and I first met at summer camp back in 1984. It was the summer before final year in high school. She was the lifeguard assistant and I was the canoe instructor, which meant we were both on the waterfront for most of the day. She, in her deadly bluegrey bathing suit, and me with...well... Let's just say I was happy to see her. During what little free time we had, we managed to form a good friendship. I hoped that it would lead to more, but I was shy(ish) and she lived as far away as could possibly be. Only about an hour, but I didn't have a car so it may as well have been overseas.

We continued to communicate after the summer, but only through letters. I've never been any good on the phone. I think the letters stopped after she started to date another guy from summer camp. He lived even further away than I did, but he had a car; or at least his parents were willing to drive him. They went to a few concerts together in the city and held hands, I think. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's all they did.

Six years later, after four years living away from home getting my first degree, I was living at home again and working as and educational assistant at the same high school I had graduated from and working evenings as a waiter at the local Smitty's Family Restaurant. One weekend afternoon, I felt the need to clean out my bedroom closet. After pulling out several boxes full of odds and ends I used to tinker with, I found a shoebox which had a stack of letters bound together with elastics. I had forgotten that they were there. Letters from Joyce. I suddenly wondered what she might be up to. I wrote her another letter and sent it to the return address on her letters. A sort of casting out into the winds of chance. I included my telephone number.

The letter I sent had a bit of an adventure. She, or her parents hadn't lived at that address for a few years. The new occupants were a Haldemann family who sort of knew where her parents moved to. They brought the letter to them. Joyce had moved to the big city and didn't come home on a regular basis, so the letter had to wait until one of those times. The day came, and I received a phone call. It didn't take long to discover that I really didn't mind talking on the phone. Conversation was easy. Let's meet. And we did.

Two years of dating and rings were exchanged. Four more years of school for me, four children, four different addresses, four vehicles, and fourteen of the most challenging years of my life; and not once have I been uninspired. And I have Joyce to thank for much it. You see, Joyce isn't your average woman. She's fun to be around, nurturing, creative, caring, nice to children and old people, and great with a keyboard. But the thing that inspires me the most, is that she is volatile. No, I didn't say vital...I said volatile. Let me explain.

About 10 years ago I heard an investment tip that was promising to make a number of people wealthy. I decided that it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, so I took what cash I had and I joined in. The investment was in a stock on the VSE, and it was one of those stocks that you never really knew for sure what it was going to do. You had to watch it very closely and pay extra attention to it. If you saw it moving, you had to be ready to act. They called it a VOLATILE stock.

Recently, Joyce and I had a meeting with a financial advisor in hopes of us gaining a vision of a comfortable retirement 25 years from now. If we continue on the path we are on now, things seem like they will be just fine. But if what we want is more than what we've got now, we have to move our investments into something a little more volatile. It's risky, but the payoffs can be really good. And you have to be willing to do it.

My history with volatile finacial investments has not been good. In fact, I think I have approximately 3%left of my initial investment from that single transaction. But relationships are much different than money. My history with those has been a little better. I couldn't say for sure what kind of percentage I'm getting for what I'm putting in. There are a lot of ups and downs, and you really have to stay alert or you'll miss really important times. But I'm a better person for it. And I'm still willing to do it. All it takes is the heart and the right place to put your investment...and that I've got. Thanks Joycie.

question #3: grade 5 lunches

I've decided to skip over question #2 in lieu of a lighter subject...for now. (Sorry Donn. But I think you'll understand).
Question #3 comes from Michele who lives at your local laundromat.

"Tell me about your school lunches in grade 5."

Wow...this seems like an extremely easy question to answer after my beautiful sister Janice's question #1... Or is it?!

Lunches in grade five is a bit of a mystery to me as, when the lunch bell rings at 12:05, I'm outta there. The E.A.s (they used to be called teacher assistants) supervise while I am away. The students are given 20 minutes to devour everything that mother (sometimes father) has prepared, and then they are shoo-shooed outside (unless of course it is below minus 30 degrees celcius). The only thing I notice about their lunches after lunch is the garbage can NEARLY FULL of "I don't like that stuff", or "My mom knows I don't like it but she always puts it in my lunch."

I taught grade one for two years at a private school and also grade two at a separate private school. During lunch, I was required to be in the classroom while the students ate their lunches. I had a policy in my classroom that when the students said they were finished, they had to show me their lunch bags and prove to me that they had indeed eaten what mamma sent. If there was anything that they didn't want, they certainly weren't allowed to throw it out...they had to take it home and tell mom. If there was ever a time when I wasn't able to be there for the full 20 minutes, I would check the trash bin on my way in, remove, and hold up anything that I found to be a wasted (intact) lunch portion.

I'd sometimes find ziplocks with entire bagels with lox and cream cheese, unopened cans of mango and passion fruit drink, whole bananas, oranges, and apples, symetrically folded waxpaper wrapped smoked turkey on pumpernickle, home made cookies, and those really expensive fruit cups with 100% organic fruit. It drove me crazy. Instead of holding it all high in the air and crying, "who the hell threw this out?" I felt like taking it all home and giving it to the less fortunate (my own was private school remember. They seemed to think paying staff 76% of standard salary is what Jesus would do.)

I haven't yet done that with my grade 5/6 class. But now that I am thinking about it and reminded of the incredible WASTE it is, I think I'll raise a little HELL on Monday.

Do you know what your children are eating for lunch?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

question #1: some clarification please

In my last post I asked for someone to ask a question. Anything. And I would answer it honestly. My youngest of three sisters was first up to bat. Good question, Janice.

"About a month ago you left me wondering. Your post on Can I Get A Witness your thoughts were "guarded" (as you stated in the comments). My question to you or perhaps challenge is - to "unguard" your thoughts and write a post on how you really feel. And maybe do it in a way that we the people of plain speaking may understand it. And don't worry about scaring anyone away, I don't think we spook as easy as you might think."

Well here goes plain speak.

Once again...the same post...with a little added clarity and a little less "guarded".

I've spent eight years of my life in post secondary education. (I sure wish that I was making $150,000.00 a year) That is not an entirely unusual thing. (But most of you are not nearly as educated as I am.) Most of the time though, people who dedicate that amount of time and effort, usually end up with something that they can truly hang their hat on. (Like $150,000.00 a year) A hook significant enough to securely hold their hat for a very long time.

My eight years actually produced two hooks. (Two sets of four years worth of student loans) The first was a four year religious education at a major Canadian Bible College. (I was looking for a submissive wife). The second was a four year degree in education at a secular university.(Some of my friends called it "real" school).

After my first degree, feeling the pride of my hat being well hung,(Not unlike other things) I fully expected that my formal education had officially come to an end.(I thought that maybe mom and dad were getting sick of supporting me financially). I was on my way to working in the comfort of the church's warm arms, securely tucked under the wings of an eagle.(I was the only one in my church with a degree, so I thought I was a shu-in). Spiritually speaking, that is.

Confused that I was unable to land anything of interest,(they thought I was a cocky bastard and didn't want to hire me). I became anxious about my options. (I was broke, owed the government $15,000.00, and living with my parents). Joyce and I had become serious in our relationship almost immediately and I felt pressure to make a move in a definite direction.(She had a great savings account).

Something having to do with a ship that's moving and being easier to steer got me thinking about hook number two.(I became desperate after thinking that I could attempt med school). I took the first steps and enrolled.(In the education hard can it be to be a teacher? Summers off...a good pension plan). I could get a few courses credit from hook number one towards hook number two if I was willing to make religion my minor. A lot of good that had done me in the past.(What do secular professors know about religion anyway? They're not "real" Christians). I declined any credit, and so I was on square one. Four full years to go.(Dear God, not again). We can do this.(With a little help from Jack Daniels).

The years passed quickly.(I was drunk most of the time(not really)...but maintained a 3.8 GPA).

The first two of four children were born and I was feeling a little less anxious every year.(Actually Jane cried for her first full year of life which made me crazy, Joyce and I weren't getting along, I hated school and my job at The Keg, and we were barely making ends meet financially).

Teaching was definately my thing. I was good enough. I was smart enough. And gosh darn it, my students liked me.(My lessons consisted of sing-alongs with me on the guitar and a bucket of candy. What 8-year-old WOULDN'T like me?).

Nearly ten years and three schools of friends later(and maybe one janitorial, not you Donny), I've come to love how my hat hangs firmly on it's place(Here's where things get a little more serious). Occasionally I walk past the place on the wall where the first hook is mounted.(I look back at all that I have ever learned and come to believe about God, the church, faith, history, science, truth, the future). I've taken some of the mounting hardware and used it elsewhere.(There is a lot that I no longer believe in about my learned Faith and have come to believe in something much more empirical). It hangs there loosely.(Actually it is barely holding on). I never use it.(I 'm not angry...or afraid...I just don't believe it anymore).

I was asked a few days ago by someone who uses a similar hook if I ever used it.(He asked me if I was a Christian). I had to say no.(Not in the sense that your typical North American fundamentalist would be).

I remembered a time when I would also move about asking anyone if they had a place to hang their hat, or whether they would like one.(I was on a Christian Service team at Bible College where we would go to the local University and try to win some souls). I actually took a freshman course where I was taught how to do this. I was told that I was salty and that when people tasted me, they would become thirsty.(We were quite full of ourselves). Taste and see that I am good. I was afraid.(Do people really want to have me come up to them, cold, and tell them that I've got it right?). I didn't want people to taste me.(What right did I have to assume that they wanted to?)

I was required to write about at least one actual contact where I offered my seasoning. Witnessing, it was called. That was the first and only assignment where I received a 0%.(I protested that this was an unfair assignment. I still received a zero).

Sinse then(Now that my change of heart has become more apparent), I've become a target.(people tend to say things a little differently than they would have a year ago). People are now coming to me with their salt and offer it sheepishly.(I think they are really still trying to convince themselves of it).
Taste and see...they say.(You just don't have enough faith...).
No thanks...I'm feeling a little full(It's just not believable anymore).

So now, Janice, if you're not too spooked, let's see what you have to say...or anyone else for that matter. I welcome your comments. Try to be nice.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'll tell you no lies

I've been prone to quiet spells in many of my relationships. I've left people wondering what is going on in my head and whether I'm alright. During these times, conversations do not come easily to me. I will feel the other side's tension, and I'll feel worse, and the silence will compound. They'll say, "Brian, you're so're not always this quiet. Are you O.K.?"

I sometimes respond by saying that I just need someone to ask me some questions, and then I'll have something to say.

I seem to be in that sort of spot now with this blog. A very quiet space. Nothing to write about. Although there are many things going on.

So I'm asking you, ask me some questions, and I'll tell you no lies.
If I've any readers left, ask what you will, and I'll write a post about it...I promise.

Friday, February 09, 2007

reverse osmosis

There really is little doubt about the statement that our lives become rich through reading.

But have you ever wondered if what we read becomes rich in colour by our reading it?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

a little less bereft

There was a meeting of the minds in Winnipeg.

It doesn't take much for people to come up with an excuse to get together and celebrate ANYTHING when it's -40 degrees. We'll attack the elements simply to get our internal furnaces together to have a combined efficiency in heat production.

Sometimes we get together with my friends and sometimes it's with Joyce's friends.
On the weekend it was with both. And I'm a little different for it, if not warmer.

Every time I think of the word "friends" I can't seem to escape a portion of the lyrics from a song by the Crash Test Dummies.

The Bereft Man's Song

...I can't stand her goddamned friends
But I will tolerate them, even though I hate them
( I don't, really )

I spent Sunday warm and content. Too cold to go to church, I stayed home and hung out in my long underwear and watched Apocalypto. I watched an ancient civilization become cursed and begin an unstoppable decimation. Fear and control. The film begins with historian Will Durant's famous quote: ''A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.'' I tried to see God's hands in all of this.

"God, damn the hands of glory
That hold the bloody firebrand high
Close the book and end the story
Of how so many men have died"
( Bruce Cockburn )

Life here in the cold outside and warm inside often has me wondering. Today I wondered that
perhaps God doesn't damn as much as he is given credit for.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Illustration Friday: RED

My son Micah in a RED tube slide. He also has the most wonderful RED hair. He is also quite well READ ( mostly Calvin and Hobbes actually ).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

using memories

I'm going to be trying some poetry in my classroom over the next little while. It is suggested that one way to inspire students is for the teacher to write some of their own poetry.

blanket hog
When my wife
hogs the blanket,
the only thing to do
is yank it.

O.K. Maybe I'll try something a little more inspiring tomorrow.

What I'm really hoping to do is to make poetry part of the entire curriculum instead of saving it for a gigantic poetry unit in April. I want to link poetry to the real world. I think the best way for this to happen is if I become a poetry reader myself. If I read, then I will be able to find poems to read with my students which have personal meaning. I'll find an apple poem in the fall, a war poem when we study about current events, a poem about loss when someone in our community dies, a poem about living anytime.

I hope to, together, discover the joy of hearing our language used at its hear the music of the words.

Some of you are already good at this. Perhaps you feel like sharing.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

can I get a witness

I've spent eight years of my life in post secondary education. That is not an entirely unusual thing. Most of the time though, people who dedicate that amount of time and effort, usually end up with something that they can truly hang their hat on. A hook significant enough to securely hold their hat for a very long time.

My eight years actually produced two hooks. The first was a four year religious education at a major Canadian Bible College. The second was a four year degree in education at a secular university. After my first degree, feeling the pride of my hat being well hung, I fully expected that my formal education had officially come to an end. I was on my way to working in the comfort of the church's warm arms, securely tucked under the wings of an eagle. Spiritually speaking, that is.
Confused that I was unable to land anything of interest, I became anxious about my options. Joyce and I had become serious in our relationship almost immediately and I felt pressure to make a move in a definite direction. Something having to do with a ship that's moving and being easier to steer got me thinking about hook number two. I took the first steps and enrolled. I could get a few courses credit from hook number one towards hook number two if I was willing to make religion my minor. A lot of good that had done me in the past. I declined any credit, and so I was on square one. Four full years to go. We can do this.
The years passed quickly. The first two of four children were born and I was feeling a little less anxious every year. Teaching was definately my thing. I was good enough. I was smart enough. And gosh darn it, my students liked me.
Nearly ten years and three schools of friends later, I've come to love how my hat hangs firmly on it's place. Occasionally I walk past the place on the wall where the first hook is mounted. I've taken some of the mounting hardware and used it elsewhere. It hangs there loosely. I never use it. I was asked a few days ago by someone who uses a similar hook if I ever used it. I had to say no.
I remembered a time when I would also move about asking anyone if they had a place to hang their hat, or whether they would like one. I actually took a freshman course where I was taught how to do this. I was told that I was salty and that when people tasted me, they would become thirsty. Taste and see that I am good. I was afraid. I didn't want people to taste me. I was required to write about at least one actual contact where I offered my seasoning. Witnessing, it was called. That was the first and only assignment where I received a 0%.
Sinse then, I've become a target. People are now coming to me with their salt and offer it sheepishly. Taste and see...they say.
No thanks...I'm feeling a little full.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

art of motion

I got the CD I ordered today. Andy is outa sight. I just knew I would not be disappointed. And I love the album title, Art of Motion. That's the reason for today's post. I believe that there is quite an art to the motion of day to day living, or MOVING through one's day.

The day began with me having the luxury of sleeping in. Instead of waking at 5:46, I was able to instead rise at 7:10 because Thursday is not a pool day. One of only two in the week. I look forward to instead waking to the smells of the coffee being prepared and the sounds of day care children arriving at the back door.

This day I had the luxury of slowly making my lunch while sipping my second cup of Christmas gift Tim Horton's while the van warms in the garage, remotely started on this frigid morning.

The students have become more and more accustomed to my expectations and have come to appreciate the care and attention I place on the finer details of the daily plan. Sure they whin and complain, but that's because they are nearing that time in their lives when, I tell them daily that this is coming, that their brains turn to mush, and all they will be able to utter are complaints and protests.

Sarcasm is a fantastic classroom management tool. They don't tell you of this one in teacher college. But we all quickly discover that it is one of the more efective tools to build rapport and respect. It only works, however, if it is accepted as going both ways. It's a beautiful thing when you can connect through the eyes with someone attempting a connection through making familiar. The little smile begins in the corner of the mouth, and then quickly transforms the face into a knowing smirk. There are no unit plans for this. It's about being human.

The work day is through, and before going home I make one final connection. He says that Thursday is martini night. Tanqueray gin, dry vermouth, and a couple of really great olives. My mouth waters and my brain's tonic begins to stir. A quick stop before home would produce the same tradition.

Not three steps into the back entrance and I am greeted by my love who says she has something for me. A suddenly compact universe of skin and breath and hair. "That's for the lights", she says. I never imagined that flourescents in the basement could be so bright.

Dinner's done. All six in one room. "We should do this every night...this is family. The T.V. is off, doing homework, kids playing and laughing, music........and a good drink."

"A woman after my own heart", I say...or at least after my own liver.