Poem to the One I Love

I wrote this to my husband, who travels extensively for work. We met for dinner at a restaurant, as he was going through town on his way from Point A to Point B.

I noticed him watching me a lot as we ate, but he did not say what he was thinking. So I asked him…

This poem came to me on the drive home, and into the evening, so I thought I would share it here.

POEM TO THE ONE I LOVE

What do you think when you look at me?

I asked.

So now I ask myself:

What do I think when I look at you?

I see a healthy, clean, pleasant face.

Neatly trimmed hair around thin, refined lips.

I see a nose that moves slightly when you talk.

And eyes, clear blue eyes, like

A bright blue day-

With a few clouds scudding past.

I see wrinkles and crinkles of years

Of smiles by your eyes. I love those lines.

I see your brow, smoothing out

As we eat and talk.

I see a face more familiar than my own.

For who has gazed upon their own face

In conversation, in concentration, or at rest?

When I look at your face

I see love.

                                ~Brenda Visser, 2016

Happy Early Valentine’s Day Everyone!

Card- Love Blossoms 3

 

 

 

 

 

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Knives, Nonsense, and New Life

It was a beautiful spring day in Nova Scotia. The grass was turning green, the sky was blue, and birds were singing everywhere.

We were in the picturesque province for a funeral, and a bit of a mini-vacation with family. Being on the go, one night we decided to order pizza from Luigi’s- the yummiest pizza around. We ordered, and my husband and I hopped in the car to pick up our boxes.

As we left the subdivision where my mother-in-law lives, we drove by a cute yellow colonial house that was in the process of being upgraded by her owners. Three mid-teens were outside, standing in a circle to the side of the house. We were almost past them, when a glittering object fell to the ground, not far from them.

It was a knife. A large butcher knife. That fell from the sky.

It took a moment for this to sink in.

These two boys and one girl, probably around 15 years old, appeared to be playing a “dare” game. A game where a dangerous activity is agreed upon by a few or a group, and the challenge is to not flinch or “chicken out” by saying “no” or “stop”. Examples of these types of activities are found all over the internet, and I find them disturbing, so will not elaborate on them here.

We arrived at the pizza parlour early, and while we waited for our order, we debated what we should do. Knock on the door and tell the parents? Call the police? Ignore the situation? We did not know if these kids had ill intent, if they were on drugs or alcohol, or what the state of their minds were.

We decided that if they were still out there when we went back, that we would simply ask them to stop. We hoped they weren’t an angry bunch who would  turn on us…

Sure enough, as we approached the yellow house, a knife catching light from the sun clattered to the sidewalk. A teen ran over and picked it up, pulling up his sleeves, sweating. They stood in a circle. He threw the knife. Up high. Very high. The knife came down. Landed with a thudding plunge into the grass. Inches from a bare foot.

We drove up with cautious urgence. Rolled down the window. The knife was in hand to be thrown again. All three looked at us silently.

“Could you please stop throwing that, please? It’s so dangerous!” I pleaded. My husband echoed those thoughts. “Please stop. You guys don’t need to be doing that!”

Then a surprising thing happened. I expected them to laugh, to be angry, to ignore us or swear. Instead, what we heard was the most meek thing ever.

“Okay,” they all said in unison. “Okay”. They looked down, and immediately started walking towards the house. They were quiet.

“You are all too valuable for games like that!” we said.

“Okay,” they said, completely submissive.

The transformation was astounding.

It was like these kids were waiting for someone to say something. Not one of them could bear to break the peer pressure and say no, but it appeared they all wanted to. They welcomed our words, received them in a way rarely seen in teenagers. (Believe me, I know. I have four teens in my house!) The relief was tangible and evident.

In Christianity, turning from your old ways to a new, God-inspired spirituality is considered to be a conversion. New life.

Now, I have no idea about the hearts of these kids or what drove them to engage in such a dangerous activity, but something profound and deep happened that day. I could feel it. I could see it. I could hear it.

It was a conversion, of sorts. A chance of new life, and a stepping away from something destructive.

I do not know how this has affected the kids involved, or if they even think of the incident anymore.

But I know it affected me:

Words are powerful.

They can build or break.

Choose them carefully-

See the difference you can make.

I am so glad I spoke up that day.

***Song lyrics from Colleen Reinders and Grace Moes, "Encourage One Another"

My Reading Pile

Beside my bed is a tall stack. Of books. Some are waiting to be read. Some are too dull to keep reading (like parenting or conflict management), and some have great titles and covers, but I just haven’t had time to start them. By the time I get to my bedroom at night, I have little mental, physical, or emotional energy to engage in reading. And if I do, it is usually a mistake that I deal with the next morning in the attempt of an early rising and heading out for another day of work.

But some books do get regular attention, albeit slowly… I often have 3-4 books in various stages of completion.

One year I took a year to work from home and to concentrate specifically on writing and reading. It was one of the best years of my life. I thrived and read many books, and I wrote and wrote. I read books to write reviews about too. Nothing better than getting paid to read!

I had no dry times when I couldn’t think of anything to write (unlike recently), and I didn’t have trouble finding books either. Good times.

This year I received a Kobo for Christmas, and I have already read an entire historical novel, just for the fun of it. Wow, have I been missing this in my life! I definitely need to get at that pile, and renew my interest in reading and writing. Who knew a little piece of technology could be such an asset?

A Christmas break sure helps too!

A Tribute to “Little House”

I went to bed thinking that my next blog post would be about  my favourite children’s books- Goodnight Moon, Frog and Toad, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Green Eggs and Ham and all the other Dr. Suess books, Caps for Sale, Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables…

I remember my father reading me an earlier version of this book, complete with sound effects!

And then something happened during the night to help me focus my thoughts.

But first some background….

We live in a small village. Population 1000 for the last 100 years. It is so small that we feel very much like we still live in the country.

Under the village sign, Holsteins graze. In the sky, big Vs of geese are common. Teens ride snowmobiles to school. And we can hear the shots of duck-hunters. Skunks wander freely. We often hear the yip-yip-yipping of coyotes at night.

Which is what happened last night. I heard coyotes. In fact, I didn’t just hear them, I was awoken by them. They were LOUD and sounded like they were right under my window! And their voices sounded more like howls than the customary yips. Which made me wonder two things-

1. Were these older coyotes?

2. Or were they wolves?

I actually shivered from the sound of them. Which is UNusual, because I usually like the sound of them, and try to listen to all their voices and make out the variances of sound. I find it interesting.

But this night, they sounded different.

Which connected my thoughts to the earlier ones. I suddenly thought of Little House on the Prairie, my all-time favourite children’s book and series.

My well-loved, well-used copy of Little House that I can’t quite part with.

I remembered the story of the wolves circling Laura’s little log home. (Maybe because my husband was away, I was more sensitive to these outside things…)

Which got me thinking about Ma Ingalls. Maybe Pa and Laura thought it was interesting to watch the wolves, but what about Ma? Did she shiver in bed too?

If you consider all the adventures that the Ingalls faced on the prairie frontier, and think about the role Ma played, and the adversity she faced, there had to have been many frightening moments. I’ve never really looked at the story from a mother’s point of view until now. Laura leans heavily in her father’s favour when she describes the love of the open land.

Ma was concerned about education, food, heat, raising well-behaved children, and having a cozy home. She undoubtedly wondered if she would be able to do it, and must have had days where it seemed impossible. Not so different from the feelings many mothers of today experience.

Despite all the challenges, as far as we can tell from the books, Caroline Ingalls remained a person of good character, and was a factor in contributing to her daughter’s determination and drive. Perhaps she deserves a little of the credit for these books.

Exact replica of Charles Ingalls’ homestead, outside DeSmet, South Dakota. My children are in the doorway, and cottonwoods are in the background.

The impact of the Little House books continues to this day. Hooray for good literature!

Writing Contests: The Joy, the Pain

A writing contest is a little like passing in an assignment at school, hoping that you get an A.

Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t. And that’s okay most of the time.

But to intentionally enter a writing contest, to pay a fee to compete with others for the top prize is a little more nerve-wracking and personal.

I have experienced both the joy and pain of the competition this spring.

In 2011, I had over 50 articles published, most of them news stories, but also book reviews, business profiles, personal essays, and this blog. They weren’t all great; sometimes the constraints of research to deadline made for unforeseen challenges and not necessarily exemplary writing. Sometimes the stories were slightly dull to begin with, and I was hard-pressed to breathe some life into them. But I also produced some good articles, and had good feedback from my editors and readers.

I want to grow as a writer, and for 2012 I resolved to enter my work in  a writing contest. So I did. I entered seven different articles in seven different categories in the Word Guild’s Canadian Christian Writing Awards.  I paid the money. I waited.

A few weeks later, I was thrilled to learn that I have been shortlisted in the Blog category, for my posts “Mudalicious” and “Quilt Therapy”.

I was so thrilled, I forgot that in this contest, writers get feedback for their submissions.

And so a few more weeks passed.

Then I got an email with 6 attachments, all individual comments from judges for each article that didn’t get shortlisted. There was more pain than joy here.

Some of the reviews of my articles were strongly worded- maybe the judge was tired of reading crappy entries and mine was one of them. With some I barely made a passing grade. Ouch. These articles had all been published, and I had been paid for them, and now I was told that they are crummy. That’s hard to hear. It stings.

Thankfully, a few of the critiques I received were very positive, very encouraging and motivating. Phew! They are the wind behind me, gently pushing me forward.

Now that I have had more time to read the articles, judges’ comments, and ponder what I could have improved on, I can see their points. Some of them I even agree with. In fact, I think I can say that I agree with all of the critiques except one of them, which I could have a good debate about.

I also received good advice like “Take a grammar course”, which I definitely know I need.

So if you want to ramp up your writing to the next level, try getting a critique. Even better, enter a contest. Listen to the judges, but listen to your heart too, because it is still YOUR writing after all! Even if you don’t get an A or you don’t become a finalist, you will have learned something that will help improve your writing.

Congratulations to all my fellow finalists in the Canadian Christian Writing Awards!

A Look Back, and Ahead

In 2011, I had 52 articles published (mostly news related), and made 39 blog posts. So that is one article a week, and almost that much for blog posts. Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and challenge along the way!

I am looking forward to two writing conferences in 2012, and I hope I can maintain and even better my record from last year. I would like to have more personal essays published, work on a novel, and just get better as a writer.

And I would love to have a new camera and improve my photography skills.

What are your (writing) goals for 2012?