28 February 2010

Last day of my birthday month

I celebrate my Feb 2 birthday all month, from beginning to end. :-)
Thank you for celebrating with me!
How do you celebrate your birthday (or other special days), dear Reader?

More than GOLD

19 February 2010

Two amigos and the man from Snowy River

Today my equestrian partner and I had the privilege of riding with a fellow horse lover, whom we named the man from Snowy River (because of his hat). The three of us had a lovely afternoon, despite--or because of--the fact that each of us had work we needed to be doing instead of spending a couple of hours on horseback.

The sun sparkled on the crusty snow; our horses ran with wild abandon; a small plane droned overhead, more than likely on its Springbank arc. On the ridge looking down over Griffin Valley Ranch the three of us stopped for a photo break [see here when Marilyn shares the pics with HB and me], and as I looked up at the huge blue prairie skies my soul saluted the scene below with undiluted joy.

All's right with my world today. Tell me about your world ...

01 February 2010

39 random facts about me

NB: To read tomorrow. Here are more or less 39 random facts about me, in no particular order:


It’s my 39th birthday today (Tues, 2 Feb). I was born on a Tuesday in Johannesburg at 8:20 a.m. to my parents’ (and siblings’?) delight. {Thanks for having me, Mom and Dad.}


I’m a jeans ‘n’ long-sleeved-shirt kind of girl, mostly because of our Canadian climate, but I always wear a dress on my birthday. I also like colourful handknitted woollen socks and scarves and sweaters.


My mother-in-law is a sweetie and I am glad I married her gentle son. Not a single in-law joke comes to mind.

4. I have two older brothers and a sister (as does my spouse), two Leach sisters-in-law, an 18-year-old nephew, a 9-year-old niece, and our family’s newest little granddaughter (7 months); all the Leaches live in sunny South Africa.

Our extended Phillips family is scattered across a couple of continents and divided by two oceans. I am blessed by an assortment of in-laws and nieces and nephews (all of whom we hope to see before they graduate from high school). I am also happy to be part of a huge family of mostly charming cousins, living on various curves of the globe.

In our new home we have been adopted by the Little/Mung family with whom we celebrate the changing seasons of life in all its fullness.

5. HOME:

I love wintry Canada and feel privileged to be living here. I also miss my sunny homeland and consider South Africa one of the world’s most beautiful countries; most of all I miss the linguistic and cultural diversity of Africa’s people.


In May I will have been married to my lifemate and travelling companion for 15 years. We met two decades ago, so this year I have known Robin for longer than I haven’t known him.


I am left-handed—like my hubby and my dad and my cousin and my best friend’s mom and a couple of my schoolmates who all sat in the same row.


Unlike my hubby, I am fond of heights, I have no fear of small spaces, and I particularly like to combine the two and fly high in tiny planes. (One of my favourite poems is John Gillespie Magee’s “High Flight.”)


I love to travel—my first choice is by air. Rail is second, water a close third. Car travel is a necessary reality in a country this vast, seldom a choice.

10. In the past 15 years I’ve lived in South Africa, the Czech Republic (Prague) and Canada (Calgary and Cochrane, Alberta). I’ve travelled to/through 16 countries, and hope to (re)visit many more. We now have (pen) pals in many ports.


I freely admit to being rather fond of Hroshi, our hippo-companion, and her extended family (filled as they are with imagination and stuffing).

She is the inspiration for many of my as yet unpublished travel stories, which I hope to have the courage to share … one day. Hroshi says to tell you hippos are my favourite animals, along with giraffes.


One of my favourite movies is Charlotte’s Web. Yes, I’m a farm girl at heart—”I had a farm in Africa”—and I adore pigs.


I finally took up horse riding last year—I’ve loved the majestic beauty of horses since I was a little (farm) girl—and now I ride a couple of times each month with a lovely partner.

15. (I have no idea what happened to #14. Sorry.)

On most days I am a joyful little soul, full of life and laughter.

16. On other days, the lunar tides play havoc with my moods and I seek solitude (to protect the innocent) as much as possible.


I have always been a teacher at heart, even before I studied to “become” one. I used to teach classes of hundreds of students (at RAU in Johannesburg) and I thrived in that chaotic, creative environment. Now I teach classes of under a dozen students, and some days it’s a challenge, I confess. But there is something special about knowing your students’ spouses and birthdays and habits and quirks.

18. BOOKS:

I truly admire Luci Shaw’s poetry and (the late) Madeleine L’Engle’s fiction. Their co-authored book, Friends for the Journey, is a favourite of mine, and one I’ve passed along to many of my writing companions over the years. {Thanks for introducing us, SBR.}

19. I enjoy reading (and teaching) literary classics, and plan on working my way through the Complete Works of Shakespeare this decade; I was invited to read a dozen of his plays at university for my degree, and enjoyed more than half of them.


I am learning to see myself as a writer—my preferred style, or voice, is clearly that of a correspondent. In 2007 I co-authored and published an anthology of letters: The Hippo and the Unicorn. I have finally and fully made peace with the process and the content. It is what it is: a book of letters between two unusual friends on a journey. Pure and simple. My former co-author and I remain friends and fellow writers, but are no longer working together.

21. This year I have chosen to work with a new partner—a fact which surprised us both, since I prefer to write alone, as does she—and we’re having the time of our lives. There’s something to be said for the serendipity and shared joy of co-creation. We’re currently writing a book together, and each of us is working independently as well. Watch this space.


I fully intend to keep alive the dying art of letter-writing—send me your postal address and I’ll send you a sampling of words written in ink on real stationery, before Easter.

As an aside, I used to think there was no techno-hope for me, but I’m learning … s-l-o-w-l-y. I’ve even caved in to Facebook (‘twas my little sister who wore me down). No cell phone features in my immediate future, though!


I love to create. One of my favourite hobbies is designing and making photo-cards. Another is gardening. And napping.

24. I enjoy photography and assist my spouse during weddings, etc. He’s the lens; I’m the voice.

25. MUSIC:

I play piano (neither often nor well, but with increasing freedom and zeal). A couple of fellow players inspire me and prevent me from giving up altogether.

26. I prefer classical music, but have sufficiently eclectic tastes to appreciate a range of original composers and songwriters. I like lyrics that tell a story.

27. I do not have a good singing voice (or so I’ve been told in recent years), but I do love to sing. My favourite childhood memories include being in the youth choir at BMC. Last night, restless for some reason, I sang us both to sleep. (Since my husband does not know I cannot sing, he encourages me, saying my voice soothes his spirit.) I believe the Bible’s exhortation to “make a joyful noise unto the LORD” is meant for me.


Although I have the body of a runner—I was part of the track team at school for 12 years—I have the heart of a walker. I love to amble around my neighbourhood with my camera, taking photos and greeting folks along the way.

29. I love being in mountains, sun, rain or snow. I enjoy hiking. And did I mention napping?


My soul comes alive when it rains, particularly when there’s an electrifying thunderstorm. As a child I used to go into the garden in stormy weather (a practice that wasn’t encouraged by my kin). As an adult I like to stand at the edge of a lake when there’s lightning (another practice that’s not encouraged).

31. I have tiny feet for my height, unusually long arms and large piano-playing hands—and my extremities are invariably cold.

32. FOOD:

I enjoy baking (in particular the tastebud-treats I receive from gifted bakers each Christmas) but not cooking, especially not complicated dishes. I am content to make (and prefer to eat) simple foods: soups, stews, salads, fruit plates—which can be quite attractive. My mom eventually gave up telling me not to play with my food. The fridge magnet “Dinner’s ready when the smoke alarm goes off” was made for domestic ungoddesses like me.

33. My favourite staple food is rice; my favourite take-out meal, Chinese. Robin and I will most likely go out to Shanghai Palace—again!—for my birthday (on Wed night, since I have a weekly Tues commitment with one of those rare people I’ve seen almost each week for a decade, and yet we never run out of things to say).

My favourite desserts include vanilla ice cream (like Snoopy, I’m a purist), PJ’s fresh-from-the-oven apple pie, and Wilmien’s milktart. And anything my mom makes.


Although only my closest friends believe this about me, I’m actually a mild introvert (according to personality profiles), which means I refuel in solitude in order to have energy to be with people. Most folk see me only as a “people person” and don’t know my silent side—although some wish they did! My favourite sacred space is the Hermitage, a rustic cabin at a local retreat centre. I also enjoy King’s Fold, further from home.


Spiritually, my prayer is to grow in grace and wisdom and joy as I choose to serve my Creator God, with the power and encouragement of His Spirit.

36. I believe Jesus Christ is Who He says He is. But “prone to wander, Lord, am I; prone to leave the Lord I love.” This year my fervent plea is to wander less, and walk the talk more.

37. I believe in angels but have never seen one. I’ve seen a vision (once). It scared the living daylights out of me and I still find it nearly impossible to speak of, more than twenty years later. One thing I will say: the experience cemented my adolescent decision to surrender to the lordship of Christ, once and for all, no turning back—despite wandering off the beaten track into thorny thickets at times.

38. I don’t understand suffering, but trust that God has a purpose in mind for humanity and for all of His creation.

39. QUOTE:

Since I collect both postcards and quotes (and my friend Heidi says I collect people), I’m stealing this last quote about postcards from our pastor at DCC (whose 39 random facts about his birthday last year inspired me to write my own today). “I want my gravestone to be shaped like a postcard from heaven. I want it to read: ‘Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.’”