Archive for the ‘Simple games’ Category

Writers retreat…

August 20, 2009

S, H, D and I, members of a writing group comprised only of our four selves, decided to spend last weekend, hole up in luxurious comfort and write, work on manuscripts, share meals and leisure in the late evening hours.

It was the most revivifying getaway; just what I needed to get down to polishing a piece of creative non-fiction weighing on me for the last several months. Rumpole bought us a new to us laptop. He felt I should have ease in editing my work. I decided to wing the process long-hand; a way which always helps me attain the meditative focus I need when working.

We stayed at D’s Mom’s waterfront Belcarra home. It perched up-hill from a rocky shore. The vista from my room was of Deep Cove across the inlet and of the tip of Belcarra at the end of the little bay where the house was situated. Ravens called; water lapped the shore with hypnotic regularity. The resident cats perched on lawnchairs next to me where I wrote at a patio table overlooking a delightful garden.
My writer friends were tremendous companions for a weekend of self-imposed silence and labour.

After dinner, we gathered in the comfortable lounge, shared progress reports and played “dictionary”. Inventive wordsmiths come up with some truly hilarious word definitions. “lanuginous” was one word for which invented definitions caused us to laugh hysterically and for me, to roll on the floor in helpless abandon. Some of the definitions cannot be told in decorous company, they were so risque.

I feel rather pleased with my progress last weekend. I rewrote and edited for submission an @1500 word non-fiction piece. It took about 12 or so rewrites, edits and continuous polishing. I received some excellent advice from my retreat companions and acted on them to arrive at a (for now) finished bit of writing I am not ashamed of submitting. It is as clean and spare as I could make it. And I feel more confident of the editing process.

All in all, it was a great weekend!

A gift gone wrong…

March 22, 2007

Back in 1996 Mother was in her late seventies, and had recuperated from a major operation on the frontal lobe of her brain. She was fortunate. The lesion found in her brain was benign.  She could still read, which she loved to do and continued to do. And she had cause to celebrate her continuing in this life.  Her youngest daughter, the one born here in Canada, was pregnant and about to present her with a gift – her first real grand-child (Mother didn’t consider “Renaissance Man”, my son then 26 years old, a proper grand-child. I had had him out of wedlock. He was “illegitimate”, a “bastard” and had arrived on this earth in the wrong manner, and he reflected badly on the family and particularly was a public reminder of bad parenting – hers mostly?)

I was happy for her eager anticipation of this new grand-child.  She had revered her own Grand-mother who I also had been fortunate to know for a few years as a growing child and had found great delight in. Here was my Mother about to embark on an experience of yet another stage in her life, as a loving and loved elder.  This was something to celebrate!

Her birthday was coming up and I racked my brains trying to come up with a really good gift. Clothing items were out. Perfume, which she sprayed about her and on her she had more than a few years supply of, especially her favourite “4711” which was becoming more and more difficult to find. Aha, books were called for!

Surreptitiously, I browsed her bookshelves. There were many books of classic contemporary literature.  Many had been on her shelf for numerous years and she kept adding to them.  The only trouble was that they showed little or no sign of having been read.  Whenever I asked her to tell me what she found with “book x”, she would say “It was all right, but not one of my favourites.” And she’d change the subject and pull out the latest Brother Cadfael mystery and express how much she had enjoyed it. So, I waited for the next book in the series to be published and bought it as one of her upcoming birthday presents.

While browsing in Chapters to see what else I could unearth by way of another book for her, it ocurred to me that she may have some fun with reading some current children’s literature, that she may find it amusing and interesting to read some fun books that are also instructive as well and which she may enjoy sharing with her anticipated grandchild. Aha! I thought – Shel Silverstein – a writer of inspired goofiness and someone who celebrated the individuality and quirkyness of children. I looked at the titles on the edge of the books filed on the S shelf. One entitled “Falling up” caught my eye and I pulled it out to look it over.  Found it absolutely engaging and thought about how much “Renaissance Man”  would have enjoyed being read to from it as a 5 year old. “Perfect! Mother will get a huge kick from this, I think! (There were some fun and silly poems that she could use to engage this new  family arrival as he or she grew and started to converse)” I bought it for her!

On her bithday, I travelled loaded down with the two books and a flowering potted plant to have  a visit and tea with Mother. She was like a little child at Christmas – just couldn’t wait to open up her presents. The plant she could readily see, and admiring its pretty blooms swiftly set it aside to get to the fun part of uncovering the wrapped package. The “Brother Cadfael” hard cover was lying on top of “Falling Up”. Her eyes lit up with pleasure, then she took it to her bookshelf to check the novel was not one she already had read and possessed. Satisfied, she came back and pecked me on the cheek.

She then picked up the Shel Silverstein book and asked “Why did you buy me this?” So I went through the whole song and dance of why I thought she might find the book amusing and fun to read to and with her new grandchild. She looked at me with suspicion. Then I said, she may find it a useful gift for someone else’s child, and that it just might give pleasure if not to her, then to whoever she chose to give this book. “Propel it forward.” I suggested.

The “Brother Cadfael” mystery took its place in the growing line-up on her bookshelf. “Falling Up” simply disappeared, never to be seen again, never discussed. I hope that she at least read some of this book before she made it disappear, and perhaps got a glimpse of illicit pleasure from it even if it may have embarrassed her to put in on her shelf for anyone to see.

I think that I will go to the local old book store where two weeks ago I unearthed a Hunter S. Thopson book now out of print, for which”Renaissance Man” expressed  great surprised pleasure as I pressed it in his hand on one of his drop-in visits with us.  The lady there will probably find me a copy of Shel Siverstein’s “Falling Up”. It can come home and sit in pride of place, waiting for my new grandaughter and for me to discover it together, one day soon.

Product development brainstorming…. ” The Spiffer”…

January 20, 2007

Pedagogical training, during the late ’60s-early ’70s, included information disseminated about then current research in Creativity. I immersed myself, along with many other teaching aspirants, into that hot-bed of theory, experimentation, learned opinion, analysis and practice. Those were heady times! (Of course, at that time,  there was not enough credit given to numerous anonymous educators who toiled unheralded for many prior years in the trenches, successfully and gracefully encouraging creative habits in thousands of students).  With missionary zeal, our generation of newly hatched teachers dispersed to school districts, armed with many techniques with which to stimulate CREATIVITY.

A most enjoyable method for stimulating fluid generation of ideas was BRAINSTORMING. One could drop all pretences of earnestness and “seriousness” and be permitted all kinds of leeway, which had systematically been  ground out of one, by years of doing, thinking, saying and making things in the “correct” or approved ways. In short, we could act in a way we had only dared when our parents or supervisors were not watching, or when we had lapses in good judgement. This sand-lot approach was to ensure that all ideas were validated, by being carefully listed on a blackboard. Potential notions were to be considered and evaluated by individuals to weed out flaky, impractical (and presumably anti-social) qualities.

One exercise that was posed for a brainstorming session :  List at least 20 uses for a brick.  Boy, does that open up some interesting possibilities to entertain!

So, a situation that stimulated my well-entrenched brainstorming habit –  My friend, M, who is the most practical and sane woman, phoned to tell me that she had gone out and bought herself a Swiffer duster kit for x dollars. On arriving home she eagerly assembled the components and whipped around like that demented woman in the TV commercials, flicking, dancing and mugging her way through her dusting chores.  She actually giggled as she admitted this! Rather sternly, I mentioned Global Warming, Throwaway Society, Conservation, Ecological Footprint, Recycling, Thrift and Frugality, blah, blah…and so forth.  My cautions fell on deaf ears. Pshaw, said she.

Being mindful of M’s good sense of humour, and her tolerance of my goofy silliness, and knowing that this evening we have an arrangement to watch a “chick-flick” together, (sans “Rumpole”, who hates movies of a feminish persuasion!) I have been madly brainstorming to come up with a replacement product for “Swiffer”, which I have decided to label as “the Spiffer” (heh, heh – to rope in impressionable consumer).

I have decided on the following parameters for the “Spiffer”.  It must be inexpensive, plentiful, readily available, self-cleaning, low-tech to both produce and use, use a natural energy source and be ecological. After making lists, considering options I have decided to use the “domestic cat” as the impetus for brainstorming for developing “the Spiffer”.

So,  I am posing the following question, which M, and any other comers may wish to adress to provide  an exhaustive list to be evaluated, later, individually, by all who wish to take part in developing the “Spiffer” product.

 List a series of reasons why a “domestic cat” is ideal to be used as a “Spiffer”.  You may wish to mention specific characteristics of cat,  the science of dust collection, positioning of the cat for optimal performence of dusting, methods of recharging the cat, resources for long-term maintenance of the cat “Spiffer”, precautions that you must follow in using your product, and ecological reasons which you may wish to list to sell this product. You may wish to include instructions for how to use the Spiffer. Doing this point-by- point helps all of us appreciate your innovativE thinking. Please share freely.

Note -” the Spiffer” is not to be copyrighted, but is to be available to all and sundry.  I promise you a Revolution in Dusting.

M – no watching “chick-flick” until you have satisfactorily completed this assignment!!!


Simple toys

January 2, 2007

A friend, cruising last summer garage sales, found two treasures needing new homes.  One was a velveteen rabbit like no other plush toy I have ever seen. It is squishy, pillow-like, with long, floppy purple ears and obviously home-made.  The other was a Raggedy Ann doll, beautifully hand-made of natural fibres, with a quirky face and bright red yarn hair, wearing a pretty pinafore over an underdress carefully stitched.

She brought these, hidden in a plastic grocery sack, and produced them to me with a flourish, one by one. Now, both of us being women in our sixties, we still have enough child in us to be delighted in handling these soft toys, in looking in their rudimentary faces, in checking that they had the requisite and correct anatomy and in taking off and putting back on their clothes.  These are meant to be played with by my new grandchild while she is visiting our home – special items to be found in Grandma’s house, meant not to languish forgotten in the toybox at the grandchild’s home.

Over tea, my friend and I discussed how important it is for grandchildren to feel they have a foothold in their grandparents’ homes.  This can involve special rituals with the grandparents, a special place for the child to have naps, books that can be found and shared only while there and simple toys and games belonging to the child which stay at Grandpa and Grandma’s. So, these two characters have joined the bean-bag stuffed mandrill I found at a garage sale and the three softies sit in my vitrine waiting for my grand-daughter to visit with them. Soon, they will be joined by a sock-monkey which an artist friend is crafting.

I presented Raggedy Ann to my granddaughter while babysitting her one afternoon.  She was 4 months old at the time.  She was sitting in her baby sling and I placed the doll on her lap.  She immediately gazed at the doll’s face and her slow smile bloomed. She touched the red yarn hair and her attention was firmly focussed for several minutes.

The velveteen rabbit is on reserve for later, when she is older, for a rest and nap buddy.  It will make a cushy pillow as it can be molded and bent to be a comfortable, huggable armful.

I am sure that soon there will be naming of these creatures as my grandchild takes ownership of them.

Meanwhile I am collecting simple wooden toys – blocks, dominoes, pick-up sticks. My husband and I play with these, sometimes, in anticipation of future games with our granchild.  We get to be kids again for a short time.  A friend with a keen sense of fun is on reserve to engage in a game of Cat’s Cradle.  As time passes, ideas occur to me for what simple toys to acquire in anticipation of amusing and learning with my grandchild, but I am open to any suggestions.