Writing 101: The setting of our first home

Today’s Writing 101 Challenge is to write about setting which is something I am not good at! Here is my attempt.

It should have been exciting to move into our first house but all I could think about was getting everything done. We still had to unload the truck, unpack the boxes, call the cable and phone companies, and get the builder to finish the plumbing. We might never be done. It wasn’t even lunch time but I was exhausted. My husband asked me to guide him as he backed the truck up to the garage so I hopped out and stood near the back of the truck. The driveway wasn’t even poured yet so I made my way through the muddy gravel. I looked around and it didn’t look like any of the other houses in our cul-de-sac were completed yet. There were construction trucks everywhere. I wondered when we would get our first flat tire.

Luckily for us it wasn’t raining, which was rare for the end of June. I signaled to my husband to back up, keeping an eye on the back of the truck and the garage door. The stupid garage door that the builder forced us to paint red. It stood out like a bloody canvas against the off-white house. I liked the red trim but a red garage door? It seemed ridiculous. He kept backing up until we both heard a crunching sound. What was it? I looked down: nothing. I looked up and saw the house crumpled above the garage door. I am a complete idiot. I never thought about the top of the truck. Now our brand new house was ruined and it was all my fault. My husband looked at me, probably wondering if I could be any dumber, but he just turned the truck off and hopped out. “We’ll get it fixed,” he said. There was work to be done so we opened the garage door and saw the empty space inside. At least the garage had a poured concrete floor. It looked like so much space but I knew we would fill it up quickly.

We started moving boxes into the entryway and kitchen. Everything looked so clean: the kitchen, the living room, the dining room. It was all empty, void of life and laughter. The linoleum was shining as it was hit with the morning sun. I loved those big windows that looked out past the edge of the city into the prairie. I looked forward to watching a thunderstorm from inside but not today; there could be no rain today. The dining room wasn’t really a dining room yet, just a space with linoleum floor and a chandelier. I didn’t really care about any of it outside of the kitchen. I loved the blue countertops and the maple cabinets. We chose them from the showhome and they were perfect. I looked at all the boxes and wished I could start cooking right away. The little family room looked so odd being empty; it was the only space on the main floor that was carpeted. Unless you count the stairs I guess; I had insisted on carpeted stairs. I had insisted on no triangular stairs either, ours turned at 90 degree angles because I figured I would fall if they curved. I sat down and started emptying boxes while my husband did the hard work and brought everything in to the house.

Twenty years later I still miss those maple cabinets and blue countertops. We would feed our baby in that dining room for the first time. I labored in that house. Our son peed all over that house. We laid him down on what would have been a fireplace (if we could have afforded it) and let him get some sun to eliminate his jaundice. My husband would build a big deck off the back that looked out over a weedy park and the back of Canadian Tire. I don’t miss that yard; the slope was immense and nothing would grow, it was so dry. I somehow miss the train though, even though it woke me in the middle of the night. There was something secure about having a train enter the city behind your house, seeing it come through each day. There was comfort in the routine and watching the cars. When we were sick and overwhelmed, it was good to see that life went on outside. Every memory of that house is related to our first baby because I was just pregnant when we moved in. I remember our huge master bedroom with a walk-in closet and big bathroom where I threw up every morning at 5:20 before I got ready for work. I remember the evening heat in our son’s west-facing bedroom. I remember when the crunched garage got fixed by an awesome superintendent who felt sorry for my stupidity. And I remember dropping a big bowl of cooked pudding on to the floor where it sprayed everywhere, including on my son who was busy rocking his Little Tikes rocker motorcycle. And I remember crying over spilling a box of cereal because that $5 was too precious to waste.

The undeveloped basement was our first connection to the online world. It housed our computer, hard wired into the phone line, where we got very slow and squawking dial-up service. I don’t miss the driving though; I don’t miss it taking me half an hour to drive to the mall that we now walk to. And I don’t miss navigating the road down the hill to our cul-de-sac in the winter where tracks created only a single lane for both directions to try to get through. And I don’t miss our crazy neighbours who probably had a grow-op. It was the perfect place for us to live at the time and although I miss parts of it, I am perfectly content where we are and I’m not ready to move on just yet.

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Writing Tanka

Writing is not hard

But writing well is very

Any skill is hard

We must get down and work it

There is no reason not to

 

Limit distraction

If you can’t think do push-ups

Or go for a walk

Just put the words on the page

Edit, review, and rewrite

 

When you’re done it’s great

But you’re never really done

One story and next

You can’t ever stop writing

It’s inside of all of us

 

In response to this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge. Tankas are awesome!

Weekly Writing Challenge: Tanka Treasure Map

When my husband died

There was no way to go on

Then I found the map,

“To my sweet, sweet love,

I leave you treasure of old.”

 

Down the road and back

I ran, unable to stop

Do I believe it?

Could it be true? Or a trick?

I took it on and drove away

 

Up our hill I climbed

For hours and days it felt like

But only minutes

I found our spot at the tree

I dug until I found it

 

His initials found

I knew it was made for me

I cried at his thought

The sacrifices he made

Even in death, he was here

 

Inside the box was memories

Of many times together

I sat, shook, and cried

Until I could cry no more

I felt myself start to go

 

My tears began to wrap

Around me as I flew up

I saw his face shine

And welcome me home again

I was free and he was here

 

 

Weekly Writing Challenge

Edge of Tomorrow (Live. Die. Repeat)

Edge of Tomorrow (or Live. Die. Repeat) is a big budget sci-fi action feature with some humour thrown in. Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise do superior jobs in their roles as soldiers fighting an alien invasion. There is a lot of fighting and running and explosions that are sure to please the action lover in your family, and Emily Blunt is an awesome female role model. She is beautiful, strong, determined, and confident, and she’s a tough coach!

But the underlying theme of the movie is sacrifice, not mindless action adventure. Tom Cruise is forced to relive the same day over and over again in an effort to destroy the alien ‘mother ship’. Not much of a sacrifice perhaps as he would die anyway, but he has to die over and over again and it appears to be quite painful. He has to put his personal feelings aside; something that is difficult for him to do as he is an arrogant administrator in the beginning of the movie. Luckily for Tom Cruise he gets to have Emily Blunt by his side through most of his journey; but even without her, he continues the fight. There is a point in the movie where Tom Cruise checks out and sits in a bar and sees what happens if he takes that route, and the result is devastating. The film makers were brilliant in putting this short scene in the movie without making it longer or heavier in dialogue or clichés. It reminds us that we all have a choice in how we respond to others and how we spend our time.

Edge of Tomorrow is about sacrifice rather than honour. It is not about medals or pride but about doing what needs to be done. It is not about blindly following orders. It’s about supporting the right person and putting your selfish desires aside. There is a moment in the movie where Emily Blunt says, “thank you for getting me this far,” to Tom Cruise. I’m thinking that line should be part of my prayers each night.

The Hundred Foot Journey

The Hundred Foot Journey might be a predictable tear-jerker that seems unappealing to movie-goers that are hooked on special effects and action scenes, but food connects us all and this story has something for everyone. We only use two of our senses while watching movies but The Hundred Foot Journey is so beautifully crafted that you will feel, smell, and taste the scenery, fresh produce, and prepared dishes. You will feel the heat of the fire and the heat of the chilies as your eyes take a bite of every food offered. Preparing and eating food is a gift that God gave to all of us and this movie will inspire you to go home and create dishes with love no matter who you might be cooking for. It doesn’t matter whether you know what a Michelin star is or even if you know how to poach an egg, cooking is a skill we all can, and should, learn. Delight your taste buds and make a reservation for the Hundred Foot Journey. Your senses will thank you.

The Five Phases of School

Stage One: Excitement

New (or new to you) books, sharpened pencils, and maybe a new coil notebook. Ear-to-ear grins as you feel pity for your friends that are not in school.

“I can do this!”

“I love school!”

“I’m going to get all As!”

 

Stage Two: Overwhelmed or Overbored

As you delve into the course material you realize there is way more here than you first thought. Visions of reading the entire textbook in a weekend have long since evaporated. Or you find the material so boring that you’re looking for boredom as a cause of death on WebMD and find yourself asleep on your textbook no matter how much sugar you put in your coffee.

“Does ANYONE understand this?”

“Who really knows what Shakespeare was thinking.”

“How did someone stay awake long enough to write this?”

“Why am I here?”

 

Stage Three: Panic

It’s time for the first assignment. Heavy breathing, chest pains, and heart palpitations set in as you read the requirements. You avoid your friends that aren’t in school, envious of their lives of leisure.

“I’ll never finish.”

“Does anyone actually do this?”

“Working at McDonald’s forever doesn’t seem so bad.”

 

Stage Four: Plateau

You didn’t fail the first assignment or test and now you’re in too deep to withdraw. Motivation seems hard to reach and you often find yourself trying new recipes or cleaning instead of studying.

“I just need to get this done and then I can study.”

“I better run out and get some bagels.”

 

Stage Five: Completion

The final exam is written and you leave with a huge sense of accomplishment. Maybe you’ll get that A after all. You don’t stop smiling until you realize that next week you’re back in step one.

“I’ll stay in school forever!”

“This is the greatest day of my life!”

“Why is no one around here congratulating me? Don’t you know what I did?”

A Poem

I wrote this poem with a title but my son thought it would be fun to publish it without a title and have people speculate on what it’s about. So here it is!

 

Suffocating

Pulling down

Everywhere, every time

 

No escape

No fight

Give in, or give up

 

Fight the feeling

It bites back

 

Push harder

Not this time

Give in or it wins

 

Takes you down

Eats from the inside

The pressure

 

Like a beast

From inside out

Consuming

 

It ends

And you start again

Hoping it won’t be back

 

But it will

And the more you push

The sooner it returns

Late Readers

It seems like every parent I talk to that is considering homeschooling the early grades is worried about reading. So much stress is placed on us, as parents, to get our children reading well as young as possible. I have two kids, one that read novels at 6 and another that didn’t read picture books until 11. Both are raised in a home where I read to them every day, where they see me read on my own, and where reading is fun and useful without being forced. I refused from the beginning to force reading upon my children, believing instead that it would come when they were ready. That gets incredibly difficult when your homeschooled child is still not reading at 10. Other homeschoolers made comments, extended family offered advice, and I even had a lady at the library tell me that my son couldn’t read (she was surprised that I didn’t know!).

Our son started getting a bit self-conscious about not being able to read when he was 10 so we started doing some reading lessons. We tried a dozen different “methods” and the best one for us was The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading. It was suitable for an older child and had him reading sentences in the first lesson. We never did more than one lesson in a day and only did a lesson when he was willing. It still took almost a year for him to get comfortable reading but neither of us felt any rush. My early reader learned to read by memorizing picture books that were read to him over and over again, by reading comic books, and by giving me random letters of the alphabet and asking me how it they sounded. My late reader does not like reading (or being read) anything that he’s heard before and his only interest in the alphabet was when he made a book of the letters. He may never love books the way his brother does but he never has; he has always been more interested in Lego and action figures. While his brother sits at his computer writing a novel, he makes stop-motion Lego movies and draws in his notebook. Forcing him to be an early reader would not have made him love books but it would have guaranteed that he never would like books. That was not a risk we were willing to take.

My early reader has a beautiful vocabulary and loves to read and write. My late reader has an incredible memory and an eye for detail. He’s the one we ask when we can’t remember where we saw something or which movie a certain song was in. There are advantages to reading late – you have to develop a strong memory because you don’t have the advantage of reading something repeatedly. My kids played Monopoly together long before the younger one could read, and while the oldest read the cards each time he played, the younger knew the names of all the properties by memory. I’ve had people tell me that those skills don’t translate into useful career skills but they’re wrong – how many of us struggle to remember someone’s name? Or see someone at a party and stare at them trying to figure out where we first met? Any salesperson will tell you that memory is a huge part of being successful.

The second advantage of reading late is that readers will see words before anything else. My youngest still doesn’t see the words first – he will see colours, design, spacial relationships, and pictures before his eye is drawn to words, whether he is in a car or reading a comic book. Perhaps he will always see those things first but even if he doesn’t, it will be easier for him to notice them. It also means that out of all of us, he would have the most success if he moved to a different country where he doesn’t speak the language. While the rest of us will struggle to read signs, he will use other cues to get what he needs.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether your child learns to read at 3 or 13. They are who they are. What matters is that they are loved and encouraged to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

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