Category Archives: Uncategorized

Of Information, Elephants, and Taking Back the Night


Nutrition is high on my list of burdens. The quality of what goes in my children’s mouths sits like a pregnant elephant on my back. We grow our own grass fed, antibiotic free meat. We have our own eggs and freeze a fair bit of vegetables for winter. We eat whole wheat everything. We avoid sugar. We don’t keep junk food in the house. When we need to binge, we’re at least slowed down by the need to make it and bake it.

The problem is the information overload combined with the lack of six lifetimes required to verify the “facts.”  Whatever you do, it’s never good enough. Brown rice and lentils are good for now, but after that it gets a little dicey.

Meat? Very bad. Unless it’s important. Organ meat is exceptionally good. Unless you should limit intake. Potatoes are either loaded with Vitamin C and a host of other good things, or they’re a starch so don’t have too much. Milk is good. So is cheese. Unless all the dairy products are so hormone/additive compromised that they’re actually terrible.

Green vegetables are great. Except Broccoli which the children love but which gets a lot of spraying. (This much you can verify by growing your own bug infested, skinny, odd shaped, poison free broccoli. It tastes good, but the kids don’t like this kind.) Salad is great except lettuce and cucumbers don’t do much beyond taste good and accustom people to the color green. Tomatoes are great except when they come from California and Mexico which is 90% of the year. Then they tinkle all their vitamins out on the road while simultaneously destroying the planet by coaxing the trucks to keep driving. Beans (also on the kid list of edible) are ok . . . but really not a power packed veggie the way some are. Corn, peas and sweet potatoes are “just a starch.”

Frozen beet greens, Swiss chard, spinach, and beets are excellent. I refer to them as tasters. You start out getting the kids to put a square centimeter in their mouths for dinner. Depending on the age, we’re up between one and five bites now.

Fruit is good but not as good as vegetables. Apples would be good if they weren’t so notoriously sprayed. Oranges and grapes are ok but they travel too far. Whole wheat pasta is good, unless all pasta is evil. Then there’s the wheat debate. Whether you embrace your whole grains or cast them to the outer darkness, there’s no shortage of “facts,” to support you.

I was going to give up cooking and eating. Instead I’ve decided to give up reading about nutrition for a while and am committed to forgetting at least half of what I know. For a season, the elephant has been re-homed from my back to the couch. Consequently, I have fed the family all manner of potentially dangerous things (broccoli three times!) and la ti dah.

Angels, Flying and Reckless

We have fallen in love with a song called, “Sergeant Reckless.” It’s another off the Hoofbeats CD, from Marie-Lynn Hammond, that I mentioned in another post. “Sergeant Reckless,” is the true story about a horse that served in the Korean war. Wikipedia tells me the horse was purchased by a U.S. marine for $250 from a young boy in need of money to buy his sister a prosthetic limb. The song, which was researched and included an interview with one of the marines, does a nice job telling the story of the mare’s heroism.

Maybe we’re a little bit smitten with music right now, but you try to listen to this song (with pictures of Reckless) without your heart and eyes filling up. See how far you get.

All I can say about that song is . . . oh, how very much we all want an angel riding Reckless through the fire.

If that didn’t get you, here’s one based on kids at a therapeutic riding facility:


I know, I know, I should really get a job marketing this woman’s work. Except I can only sell french fries and I hate marketing. Otherwise, yes, I should apply for the position.

Time to raise a commotion



If you like what you read, please let Tuscany and anyone else you can think of, know.  Actually, you don’t have to know them. Strangers are fine too.

As of this posting, my excerpt wasn’t on facebook yet, but if you get a chance to check out these links as well, it would be much appreciated.

Thanks again to anyone who is interested and has time to review the excerpt. The novel is supposed to be a gift for my kids (a book for them was requested by Girl one a few years ago). Any help getting  the gift packaged up would be much appreciated.

And lastly . . . I’m pretty sure, I’m the guy scratching his head at the back in the picture. Hopefully you’ll find yourself in there too. :)  Have a nice day.

Seeking assistance on Thursday


I have been trying to get my young adult novel, “Saints and Bones,” published for a little while now without much success. A friend suggested I submit the manuscript to a Catholic publishing contest, and as I had nothing to lose, I submitted. To promote their contest, the publishing house (Tuscany Press) has been posting excerpts from contestants in the different contest categories for months now. Recently, I learned that an excerpt of my novel is going to be featured on Thursday, July 31. (That’s tomorrow!)  It doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily even close to being considered, but at least the manuscript hasn’t been rejected outright.

Tuscany is posting excerpts in three locations (Tuscany Press and two Facebook sites) and encouraging authors to get people who appreciate their work to comment, or “like,” the excerpt. Tomorrow I will re-post links to the three places you can see my excerpt. If anyone has time and would be interested in posting a comment, or hitting the “like” button on the facebook pages, I would be really grateful.  A strong showing of support isn’t guaranteed to help one’s entry, but then again, it doesn’t hurt either. Additionally, Tuscany offers publishing contract to some who don’t place in the contest.

Please note: although it is a “Catholic,” writing contest, you don’t need to be Catholic or anything else to share your thoughts. In fact, given the wonderful people of all stripes who have loved me so kindly over the years, I’d kind of like it if three quarters of the people who weigh in aren’t quite sure how a genuflect works.

The links are below if you’re curious ahead of time, but again, my excerpt isn’t scheduled to be there until tomorrow.


p.s.  If you read the excerpt and really like it, start calling your friends.

Coping strategies

Dear Music Teacher,

Apologies. The children were not able to practice their music very much this week. The end of winter is not close. Like all stressful information, this nasty bombshell dropped down of late by the Ontario weather departments (without, I am guessing, so much as a tiny consultation with mental health services. . . somebody should be fired, but I digress) has been hard to process. The children have coped as best they can.


This latest in fort construction is in the garage. I hope you appreciate the camouflage they’ve added. I’m reasonably sure that the assembly required use of things that were supposed to require permission. No doubt it came together during time that could have been spent on piano. The good news is that the children saw fit to construct an edifice rather than do what might have seemed more natural, namely deconstructing their own eyes or each other with all the many remaining icicles.

Boy two has been inseparable from his bow and arrows after school. He could only stand doing it alone for so long. The only one who would go out with him the first time was girl two and I didn’t know what was happening until she been in training sessions long enough to bang on the window and ask me to watch her shoot an arrow. I couldn’t scream – she wouldn’t have heard me through the glass anyway. So I cheered when it went five feet because I knew she would see me clapping. It’s been five days since then. Boy two and girl two have hit the house after school only long enough to grab a drink and put on their winter things. Then they disappear.

I wondered yesterday when I saw them heading out with the bow and a sled. I hadn’t known a sled was involved and I felt quite certain that it was not a scenario recommended in Today’s Parent. After the prerequisite window banging (to prove she can now shoot the arrow ten feet because her strength and technique are improving) boy two came in and disappeared. An hour later he had maps. “Our Place,” with a key. They’ve made a kind of sports village all over the septic system in the field. There are moguls, dog sled runs (boy two is the dog), places for archery, and other things I can’t understand even after careful explanation, but I get that they are really amazing. As a reward for my efforts, I was offered the rough draft copy of the map to keep for myself.

It has taken a week, but Girl one is finally jealous. The map tipped her over the edge. Boy two is playing it cool, but he’s pretty happy; his clientele is about to double.

So again, we apologize about the music, which you are obviously very serious about. If it helps, I could give you my map.

Kind regards,

Failed Practice Enforcer

Lines are short, now’s a good time, fries anybody?

I have been working on a children’s novel for a few years now. I re-hauled it with some significant changes and hopefully better writing this fall. I get excited about it until I think about doing something with it. Then, I want to give up. I am a cheerer, not a seller, I want to scream.

The only thing I ever sold happily was French Fries, and I was young. It was a few weekends at a carnival type event. I cooked, and sold, cleaned up, oversaw my help, and hawked in the customers left, right and center to rave reviews from the organizers. I called in the customers at ten o’clock in the morning, a little impressed with myself about the skill it took to convince people to buy fresh cut fries before they see the sights or play the games. Now, I roll my eyes. Skills? Not likely. More like luring the already health challenged minions of junk food addicts to the first fix of the day. (I remind myself of this when we have a frugal month around here and I catch myself wondering where I could sell French fries. Yes, dear, I say to myself. You really are a very good French Fry cooker and seller, but do you want to feel like a drug dealer?)

We sell meat around here sometimes, but we sell it as a loss. Not on purpose. It helps us eat like kings and maintain the lifestyle we love, but we aren’t set up to be profitable. A friend says if you run the numbers, it takes at least 100 ewes to be profitable. We’ve got three pregnant ewes at the moment and no equipment for doing our own hay. The price is right for grass in the summer, winter feeding is a bit more pricey.

Publishing, everyone will tell you, is all about who you know. Super! Because I run into so many people out here in the woods you would not believe. My slightly reclusive, somewhat private, home is a happy hermitage approach to living is going to do very well in this model.

It would all be doom and gloom, but we just picked up the mail. A newsletter came from EastGen, a company we dealt with for about six minutes last summer. For the real farmers, the ad on the back might not stand out, but we don’t pretend to be real farmers. Updates from breeding companies are new to us.

“Ice Breaker Special,” it said. “For every fifty shots of semen, you can have 5 free from your choice of the following sires . . . ”

Is it redundant to explain why after I finished laughing, I thought I’d tack the ad to the wall of the laundry room?

Somebody out there sells bovine reproduction for a living. Selling a book? Well, it could be worse.


Sochi Dreams

New Moves

Training for PyeongChang

If the Olympics are meant to inspire, it’s working. The kids had a four day weekend and spent every day skating on the pond. We shovelled out our own little short track through two feet of snow, with a pass in the middle to keep things interesting. The gentlemen decided they needed a rink as well, so they could set up a net and take shots on each other. The winter that was beginning to drag transformed into marvelous.

We were divided as to whether our arena should be called little Sochi, or the Ice Palace, but we agreed that it was perfect. I timed the kids doing laps so they could race each other without bloodshed. We played tag until I gave up on ever catching boy two without plowing girl two into a snow bank on the way.

Canadian Ice Dancers, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (world champions, and recent silver medallists in Sochi) are the talk of the house. The three younger ones (all on hockey skates) practiced their spins and dreamt out loud about figure skating lessons. Part A of my split personality smiles from a distance at how sincerely they discuss whether or not they would like to be in the Olympics some day. They skate on an indoor rink once or twice a year, but the impossible distance of the Olympics means nothing to them.

Part B of my personality lifts a back foot ever so slightly down the long stretch of little Sochi to see what it might feel like to glide along on one foot. My skate is approximately 2 cm off the ice, the glide no more than a second, bulky snow pants and twenty year old purple jacket notwithstanding, but I am picturing it differently. Leg stretched back, parallel to smooth ice, arms outstretched eloquent in flight without wings, all billowing silk and ruffles and lace, I am.

Part A does alright. She keeps the laundry done and the dishes washed. Part B, well, I had to put her to bed early the last few nights so as to give her the longest possible chance to dream about becoming an unusually late blooming figure skater.

Sending for Jeffery

I am in a small state of creative depletion. Two reasons. My daughter asked me to write her a book two years ago. It will someday be a gift for all of them. I had hoped to send it to a friend to peruse for the beginning of December. Then I hoped for January 1. Currently, I am a third of the way through my latest round of “final,” revisions. On good days, I knock off another 15 pages. It is a bit maddening. At times I am in tears that I am still not able to offer this gift. Other days, I think that since I don’t end up really running my life anyway, the completion of the book can rest where it belongs, in hands not my own. Lately, I am leaned considerably more towards the former sentiment (tears) and a little further from the latter one of peace, so I have put a self-imposed burn on and am trying desperately to get through this next stage.

(No doubt my need to finish the book is influenced at least in part by the suggestion of a friend that I begin preparing another book . . . one that I would very much love to write. I can’t in good conscience start that book while the latest copy of hacked up corrections sits on my porch waiting for me to finish entering them all.)

For the 38,000th time in my life, I call for Jeffrey. If Jeffrey would only come, I would speak the corrections to him as he typed madly, or better yet, hand him the sheaf and let him come to me when he couldn’t figure the arrows and notes. Jeffrey is my servant and has been so for years. His talents are many. His only shortcoming is his refusal to materialize from my imagination into a real, live, working assister to my needs.

The truth is, the book gives back at least as much creative energy as it takes away. It’s more the allocation of the time. The real creative depletion comes from making such big decisions recently. I don’t know if this is a common human ailment. For me, it is real. I can study things objectively, engage situations that pose conflict, and make decision not everyone will understand. But when it’s all over, I’m finished. All the considered risk taking, all the change . . . it takes it out of me. I need recovery time.

Last week, we decided to move the three youngest kids to a new school. It was a good decision. I’ll write more later. All the meetings and questions and more conversations have taken just about all the energy I have. I would like Jeffery to come now. Make breakfast. Eggs Benedict perhaps. Give the house a once over. While he’s at it, use the magical dead mouse sounder to find the decomposing bodies in the wall. Then use the carcass vaporizer to remove them. Thank you, Jeffery. That will be all for now.