Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The One About the Poetry Contest

This is pretty much only partly about the poetry contest, and a lot more about how every so often, something happens that lets me know I am actually healing. 

I haven't written much lately - I journal, but not even a lot of that.  Writing is complicated and messy for me right now, and while I miss it desperately, I know that this season will not last, and one day I will write again.  However, last fall I had the great good fortune to attend a workshop held by Malcolm Guite, and over the course of the day, I challenged myself to write a rhymed, metrical terza rima beginning with a first line of Malcolm's that resonates with me deeply.  ("Begin the song exactly where you are.")  I rose to the challenge, and after a bit of tweaking, liked the finished (ha.  Poetry is NEVER finished.) so much that I sent it in to the yearly contest at  I am always happy to support the work that Utmost is doing.

I've entered this contest before.  In April of 2008, I blogged about that year's contest.  I placed 19th that year, I think, and if I'm remembering the numbers correctly, that was the top 5 or 10% of total entries.  I was disappointed.  Here's what I had to say:

"I was disappointed. Also rather annoyed at myself for being disappointed, but disappointed nonetheless. And frustrated. I think that I can see the difference between my poetry and the top prizewinners but I don't know how to bridge that gap. As I was hiding in the bathroom trying to figure out what was SO WRONG with just wanting to be the BEST, this question slipped quietly into my mind.

"Why do you want to be the best?"

I'm a Christian. I know all the right answers.
To give glory to God. To use the gift I've been given. To strive for excellence. "We are called to excellence", I have spouted many many times.

Those weren't my answers. They weren't even on my list of answers. The answers rose like monsters from the murk.
Because I am smart. I am not as good looking as my brother or as funny as my brother but I am smart. Because my dad won't mind that I'm fat if I'm the best in the class. Smart is who I am, and if I'm first, I'm the smartest."


This year, my poem recieved an Honourable Mention. And it deserved it - it's a good poem, technically demanding, and fairly well executed.  There are a few lines that aren't quite as clearly evocative as they could be, but it ends well, and redemptively. 

But did you notice the difference in my phrasing?  In 2008, I said "I placed 19th."  This year, I said "My poem ..." 
As with other year's, I am reading the poems that placed higher (three rousing cheers for my dear friend Ellen Gray and her poem!) and thinking about the judging process but this time? for the first time that I can remember?  It's not about me.  It's about the work, which is both me and not me, but praise for my poetry is simply that, praise for my poetry.  It says nothing about my worth as a person.

And I believe that organically, immediately, without having to think about it now.

Such a deep deep blessing.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The One About The Van

If you read Brad's blog, or get his email updates regarding his cancer journey, you'll know that imminent bankruptcy has been added to the mix of stressors in our house.  But this post is not about stressors - it's about God, and His creativity.

February 11, driving home from the psychologist, I rear-ended someone in the van we'd bought a year and a half ago.  While I am often multi-tasking while driving - this time, I wasn't.  I shoulder-checked and looked in front of me and the truck in front of me had come to a complete stop.  As the roads were dry, and there was at least a car-length between us, I wasn't worried about stopping in time - only I didn't.  I slammed on my brakes but still hit him hard enough to knock his spare off wherever it was lurking underneath.  Air bags went off, smoke billowed from the hood - the van was still running, but when I pulled over to the shoulder, it bled green fluid all over the snow.

And for one reason or another, delay after delay, it took the insurance company three weeks to call it - totalled.  As we owed more money on the van than it was worth, this was a significantly low point, especially for me.  I cried all day, off and on, and had wailed conversations with my husband that included phrases like "I'm no asset here.  I'm  a liability."

The next morning, "coincidentally" a morning in which my husband prayed, rather desperately, for "some small shaft of light", we heard from our insurance company that our policy carried a 30 month waiver of depreciation on it.  In case those words mean nothing to you - the insurance payout will be for the undepreciated value, ie, what the bill of sale says we paid for it.  "You mean you guys just drove it for free for a year and a half?"  A asked, and essentially, yes, that's what happened.

We are in the middle of working out how to live more reasonably within our means.  It's been tricky, in our relationship - one of the impacts of my unknown-to-me history has been frankly being unequipped to partner with Brad in any reasonable manner when it came to money.  But I'm healing, and he's learning some things, too, and I think we're going to do great.  In the meantime - we had a choice.  We could have gotten another brand new van, and tried to keep up the hefty monthly payments.  We could have spent the entire insurance settlement on a used van.  We were praying for wisdom, and waiting to hear what the settlement amount would be, when my brother called.  My brother has a few super-powers, and one of those is finding good quality used vehicles. 

"So there's a few options", he said.  "I could look around for you, or - I was thinking of getting a new van, and then you guys could have my old one."

"How much do you want for it?" I asked.

"No", he said "you guys could HAVE it."

Long pause.  I finally said "I don't know what to say."

"Yeah, I know", he replied.  "Let it process and call me back."

So now there's a hefty monthly payment we no longer have to make, our vehicle insurance went way down, and instead of a shiny red 2012 Sienna in our driveway, there's a 2005 Caravan.

And every time I look out my window, I am reminded that we are loved.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Still true

I wrote this many years ago - at least ten! - but it's still true, Bradley Mark David Plett, and don't you ever forget it.


Plan a love poem.  Find paper and a pen.
Go back to the beginning, to easy
high school days, long talks in the lingering
light, a snowball fight through an open door.
Evenings in the library, forgetting
math and physics, so you can teach me all
that again, unaware you'll find your own
excuse to bring your books to my table.

Collage two decades of mountain picnics,
backpacks, road trips, bright prairie Christmases,
mortgages, burnt toast and babies, new jobs,
old friends, hospital beds, gravesides – all, all
tempered, enhanced, by your companionship -
you, hero, of this small, satisfied life.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

oh right, I have a blog

I know some of you have been looking here to see how Brad's surgery went, but he wanted to be the one to send the update and I didn't want to steal his thunder.  Or, you know, say stuff he wanted to say before he said it.  He mailed out an update yesterday so I'm all clear.

Surgery went well.  Our buddy Bill stayed with me at the hospital all day, and he stepped out at one point so I could scare ten years off his life, because when he came back I was on my cell phone and I had tears streaming down my face.  I managed to give him a thumb's up, so his heart would start beating again, and when I got off the phone I was able to tell him the reasons I was crying were:

1.  All tumours removed from Brad's liver.

2. No unexpected tumours in Brad's liver.

3. No need for a second surgery in 4-6 weeks.

4.  The surgeon assured me that Brad was, at that moment, in recovery and "stable as a rock."

This last was particularly pleasing because after the colon removal surgery, Brad was NOT stable as a rock in recovery.  He was wobbly as a kayak, and they couldn't get him to remember to breathe.  I prefer the part about the ROCK.

He was in the hospital for eight days, and he came home last night and went to sleep.  Last I saw him he was still asleep, although I do hear noises like someone is showering, and he's the only other one home, so I'm pretty sure there's some food prep on my immediate horizon.  His pain is manageable, his incision is really really long but nowhere near as angry-looking as the last one, and all in all, it's just been easier.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another year

And social media is alive with best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year and I think ...

Another 365 entire days?  Heaven help me.

And yet - He does.  This Christmas was one of the hardest I have ever had - Christmas Eve was one of the hardest days I have had yet, in my emotional healing journey.  I woke in the morning with an overwhelming sense of dread, which did not lift.  I was triggered all day for reasons I could not work out - I spent a lot of the day crying in the back room at work, and some of it crying at home, and some of it lashing out at people and a lot of it just trying to breathe.  By very early the next morning, the flashback that had been fighting its way to the surface had come and gone, and I could finally draw a deep breath.  Days like that have an aftermath, but even so ...

There were times of great blessing.  Brad's family came en masse to bring us Christmas, and they blessed and blessed and blessed us, with food, and warm open arms, and every time I turned around, something I had forgotten about was being handled.  No-one seemed to expect that I would have it all together, this year of all years, and I was finally able to relax and be held in the warmth of this incredible family I have been so fortunate to have married into.

We spent a few nights at a hotel that was kind enough to let all 18 of us set up camp in their breakfast room for two days, and we played games and did puzzles, rotating shifts of us, and it was all so very good.  We took a trip to Lake Louise, and while I have been there literally dozens of times in my life, I don't know if I have ever seen it so pretty.  Big fluffy flakes of snow, the temperature just below zero, hockey players and skaters on the lake - it was magical.

I filled the birdfeeders just a few days before Christmas and today I was delighted to see that the birds have found us, downy woodpeckers and chickadees and either a house finch or pine grosbeak or two, and little brown birds and even once or twice, a flicker.  Card games and all four of us home together (A moved out earlier this winter) and just the way God does, even in the midst of grief and struggle, there is comfort.

Next up is a hockey tournament, and then January 13, Brad faces another surgery, this time on his liver, to remove the cancer that has spread there from his bowel.

And Heaven will help us, because that's what He does.

Monday, December 16, 2013

So this might happen

You might have a really good few days, so good that you are tempted to think you're good now, it's all just going to get better from here.  (You might have forgotten the cyclical nature of progress in all healing, especially emotional.)

And a morning might come when you take your son to school and drive home, sitting in your garage with the car running and you cannot for the life of you work out a reason to move from where you are, because self-loathing has the upper hand.  You might be staring at your phone trying to form words for a SOS text  to your psychologist.

The phone you are staring at might ring.

It might be one of your dearest friends, asking if you need help with getting ready for Christmas any day this week, what with all that's going on in your life right now, and would right now work?

And just like that, you might remember that God loves you, and you matter, and He's got your back, and He's not the only one.

You know who you are.  Thank you for listening to the promptings this morning.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


So the city I live in has just completed another signficant portion of a ring road around the city. (It's making hockey driving so much easier, but that's not the point of this post.)

And I've recently realized that the best place in the world to rant and sob and pray is in my van, all alone, not bothering anyone else, not adding any weight to anyone's worry, especially people who live in my house ...

This morning I headed out to drive as far as I could along the ring road, taking some music and some attitude with me.  The road is lovely - wide and smooth and a thing of beauty.  A pleasure to drive, and if you drive from east to west, there's some lovely freshly-snowed-on mountain ranges off in the distance ...

And then there's construction.  Bare brown earth glaring up from unfinished overpasses, stop-and-go traffic, lower speed limits, lower tolerance levels ...

But the good road?  It didn't happen overnight.  It was exactly like this at some point - frustrating and difficult to navigate.

Was it worth it?