28 October 2010

Oct 30 memories of Julia-dear

Since I'll be away on Saturday, I wanted to share this now.
I wrote this a couple of years ago, but feel the same way today as then, so I'm simply reposting a former entry, written when my friend Julia-dear passed away at the age of 90:
My beloved friend, Julia Hassell, passed away peacefully this week [30 Oct 2007] after a brave fight against colon cancer. Her loved ones have been by her side for weeks now, and I am so thankful that their hospice experience was a positive one. I have learned a great deal about compassion and strength and loyalty from this caring family.
Oh, I shall miss my little friend dearly. (Julia called me her little friend, but I towered above her in my stockinged feet.) Her generous spirit more than made up for her tiny stature!
Julia's influence in my own life extended beyond her frequent phone calls and my lunch visits to Big Hill Lodge these past seven years; although I was supposedly her Bible study "teacher", she was my spiritual mentor in many ways. I never left room #104 without her touching my forehead and gently praying that the Lord would bless me and keep me and make His face shine upon me. 
Of all her qualities, I believe I shall most miss Julia's no-nonsense ability to pray about anything and everything. Her relationship with her Lord was vibrant and authentic, and she took her prayer ministry very seriously. Faithfully she interceded for all her neighbours at the Lodge, strangers and friends alike.
And I shall miss the hymns we sang together! "Make a joyful NOISE unto the Lord," exhorts the psalmist. And we did. She knew all the words, too!
(And whose plate shall I eat off now?)
Julia's daughter, Marilyn (who has subsequently become my friend) called earlier this evening and asked if I'd pay tribute to her mom on Monday. I feel honoured. It was a real privilege to speak at Julia's memorial service in 2007. I shared the story of the young African hippo, washed up after the tsunami, and the old tortoise it befriended. I wore Julia's comfy dressing gown as I spoke, my pockets full of candy, as hers would have been.  
I have often written and spoken of Julia in my more regular NLSC columns; a few years ago, while I was a student, one of my seminary papers for Developmental Psych (on aging gracefully) was actually about Julia. {Do you remember, Dr. Wyman?}  I dressed up in some of her clothing, whitened my hair, and presented my paper. What an inspiration she was.
I was touched by the way in which Julia crept into the hearts of the angels at the Chinook Hospice where she spent the last few weeks of her life. Apparently some of the staff members gathered around her bed on the night she died and cried...
She has left a Julia-sized space in all our lives.
Blessings on your life this day, dear Reader. I cherish you.
"The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up His countenance on you,
and give you peace." 

Honey B and Sweet Bee

Six months ago I had the privilege of interviewing Barb Glennie for the Baptist Horizon; we bonded at once and I wrote about our first phone call on this very blog.

Through BG I met her beautiful and talented best friend, Famous Author Jenn Kelly (whose book review I shall post here soon! {JK: you sparkle!}) and BG’s adorable brother-in-law, EB. I wrote about him, too, on Sept 1: his birthday. We have begun cheering each other on in our respective writing journeys and will both submit something this weekend for the CBC literary awards. {Go, EB!}

Shortly before EB’s birthday, I corresponded with his sweet spouse, Bee, for the first time. We instantly realised our mutual love of old-fashioned letters, written in ink, using stationery (imagine). So began our journey of words warm and comforting.

One family member at a time I have connected with each of these kindreds, and my heart is jubilant. I cannot describe this trio of new siblings, other than to say they’re somehow familiar; I recognise them; I feel as though I already know them. There was a Baker/Glennie-sized space in my life I didn’t even know was empty. Now I cannot imagine life without them.

Even their children have embraced me (we’ll talk about my nickname another day) and have resurrected a dormant dream in my life as a writer, and in the life (and stuffing) of shy new author Hubble, Hroshi’s niece from Botswana.

All this to say: both Barb and Bee will be in Calgary this weekend! Hip hippo Ray! My cup runneth over. I shall most certainly post details and photos aplenty of our special, sacred and silly times together in the next few weeks....

{See you at the airport tomorrow, Sweet Bee: only one more sleep.}

English 101

Let me come right out and say it straight:
I am loving my students this semester! (Yes, I always say that, but this group is truly special. I call some of them my little chickens; they have nicknamed me Mama Hen.)
It's also different having almost twenty students again, after enjoying a mere handful at a time last year.
The seven ladies in class add a new and sweet dimension, too. Last year I taught only men. (And boy, can they write!)
In time, I'd like to bring out an anthology of my first year students' creative writing...a disant dream but a pleasant one.

Be blessed, dearly beloved students of mine: you gladden the heart of your teacher.


A few blog entries detailing last month's marvels will simply not suffice. September was book-worthy. I'm attempting to capture some post-summer thoughts for my website (watch this space: my webdesigner and writing partner insists I have my own site, and soon! Elaine Mary Phillips dot com, here I come...albeit reluctantly).

October, on the other hand, is still here, so I'll send a few fall thoughts your way in the next few minutes. Stay tuned.

17 October 2010

Seminary, Oct 15



Seminary, Oct 14



10/10/10 hippopota-news



Autumnal Greetings
from the president of hippo communications inc. 

Dobry den! My name is Hroši Hrochova (Hroshi in English), meaning “girl hippo”. (Phillips is my adopted surname, pronounced Filipsova in my native Czech.) Many of you have already made my acquaintance—I sent out a similar newsletter in 2005 (has it been five years since I put paw to paper?)—but for the sake of several recent newcomers to hippopota-news, I’d like to tell you a bit about myself:

In April ’96 I left Prague (Czech Republic’s capital) to live with my human travelling companions, Robin (RP) and Elaine (EP). Having been bitten by the incurable travel bug in Europe, we moved from sunny South Africa to snowy Canada in August ’98. Since leaving Calgary (city of one million inhabitants) and settling in cosy Cochrane in 2000 (current population: 15,000), we have all three started working from home.

EP enjoys a part-time position as an adjunct instructor at our local seminary on the hill, teaching English, Research Strategies and Christian Classics. Last fall semester she and RP were privileged to co-teach the History of Western Civ. course. So thoroughly did R enjoy learning—and teaching—fact upon historical fact that he completely lost his mind and registered for a Master’s degree in Military History at AMU (American Military University is one of the larger correspondence universities in N America). He is doing really well to his surprise and my hippo-delight. (E knew R would love his studies; she’s been gently nudging him to pursue this passion for years.) What joy to see him thriving in an area of abiding interest after surviving too many tax seasons since he qualified as a CA in ’95.

For a much-needed tax break (and to escape the self-perpetuating piles of paper in his corner office), R takes photos; he and his assistant/camera bag carrier have photographed 30 bridal couples to date, mostly from Alberta and BC but as far afield as Africa. In 2008 they returned to South Africa for the wedding of Wallace and Chantal: a splendid affair! What a privilege it was for E to perform the sacred ceremony of her brother and his new bride, in the shade of an African tree, on a gorgeous golf course; R took the photos—and a grey loerie provided the entertainment by leaving a bountiful blessing on the speaker’s shoulder as she pronounced the couple duly married. {Thanks for the memories, W&C.}

With great enthusiasm, E preaches on occasion (here it’s called “pulpit supply”), and along with her more creative pursuits (photo-cards, poetry, penmanship), E also edits when absolutely necessary, albeit reluctantly. (A world of difference lies between a passion and a skill.) She does enjoy preparing the pre-print publications of her friends-who-write, though, and is currently working with a local author.

This particular hci newsletter—hippopota-news—is being sent to you for several reasons.

R and E and I, Hroshi, would like to keep you informed about our lives in Canada. Many readers of E’s NORTHERN LIGHTS SOUTHERN CROSS blog (which provides more personal news about seasonal emotions, experiences, “friends, moments and countryside”—to use Peter Gzowski’s phrase) have asked questions such as the following:

How do we juggle the demands of living and working in the same home-office? What exactly do we do? Is it difficult being self-employed? Our hci newsletters will thus attempt to answer questions not dealt with in NLSC. 

First of all, like me, my adopted mom is a global correspondent by nature. (Simply put, she’s a letter-writer.) Most of E’s free time is spent writing (or responding to) personal mail, and she still prefers penning her post the old way. Being a beginner in the arena of modem-technology, E offers no cyber-help to R at all.

Enough about EP and back to me:

Readers who have followed my personal writing journey will know that before I retired, I co-authored an anthology of letters with a delightful unicorn named Evangeline (I began corresponding with her late in 2003, and in 2007 our book was published). Since I am a hippo, the book’s original title is: The Hippo and the Unicorn (inspired, I’m sure you’ll agree). Originally, my hope was to bring out a series of “hippo and unicorn” books, but Evangeline and I have naturally g-r-o-w-n and changed during the years since 2007. While our hope is to remain forever-friends, we have spread our writing wings, so to speak, and flown in different directions.

Be of good cheer, though: a couple of hippo-relatives have taken up my relinquished quill (I mentor the little darlings). My primary successor is my niece, Hubble, who left her sunny home in beautiful Botswana—home of Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Ramotswe and the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency—to come and live with us all at Glenbrook Pond Hippo Sanctuary. Our desire (and yours, no doubt) is to see more hippo-letters radiate from GPHS to interested parties. E will send an update in her annual Christmas letter. Hubble recently began corresponding with the trio of Ontario offspring belonging to E’s kindred correspondents, B&E.

In 2009, E began a fresh chapter in her own writing journey with new co-author EGM; they are delighted to hold each other accountable each week and hope to have their first book of letters ready by the time I send out my next edition of hippopota-news. (I obviously inspired EP, and she has subsequently inspired other writers who have begun pursuing long-dormant dreams: watch this space.)

This year (April 25) I turned 14—that’s 28 in hippo years—and already my physician-Ouma in Africa has twice had to re-stitch my split seams. Life is short and unpredictable, even for one who lives a leisurely life, as I do. I need to mentor Hubble while I still have both wit and wisdom to share; E had better get writing and mentoring, too! (She turns fabulous 40 in Feb 2011, and will spend a week in solitude and silence early next year, counting her bountiful blessings.) One thing I did learn from my former co-author, Evangeline, was the importance of taking time to smell the roses.

The second reason I send out hippopota-news is to give readers a glimpse into the precise nature of R and E’s work. As a home-based company, hci has operated under two trade names for the past six years; here’s an excerpt from a NEWSFLASH clipping shared with the public:

Robin Phillips Accounting and Tax Services (a division of hippo communications inc.) offers professional accounting and tax advice and preparation. February to May is hci’s busiest season. “We include the student market and aim to offer affordable tax preparation services,” said Ms. Hroši Hrochova, president of the company. Most clients live in Cochrane, Calgary, and surrounding communities in rural Alberta.

The second division, hippo photography, offers photographic shoots for weddings. hippo photography has had the privilege of photographing weddings as far afield as Vancouver, BC, and South Africa. Each new bride brings to the event her own radiance. R (the primary photographer) and E (his camera assistant and devoted slave) particularly enjoy meeting the families of the bridal party and sometimes attend the rehearsal dinners and/or wedding receptions. We tell customers, “Robin is the lens; Elaine is the voice.”

In addition to website photos (available at hippophotography.ca or .com), hippo photography has an extensive portfolio for prospective clients to view.

Along with tax preparation and photography, hippo communications inc. manufactures top quality greeting cards for distribution to local and international markets.

“I am very proud of Ms. Hrochova,” one of the analysts told the media after the announcement of hci’s expansion. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for a female, minority species immigrant.” [Ms. Hrochova is a hippopotamus from the Czech Republic. She immigrated to Canada in 1998. Hroši Hrochova used to reside in Cochrane Lake, but moved to Glenbrook Pond in 2004 to begin a Hippo Sanctuary, alongside Glenbow’s railway track.] 

Note: A third trade name has been added to hci’s range: see my next (more or less annual) edition of hippopota-news for more details.

May blessings fill all the nooks and crannies of your home during this sacred season. Happy Thanksgiving from our hearts to yours!

Hroshi the hippo, president of hippo communications inc.
(on behalf of Robin and Elaine)

With Thanksgiving

Dearly beloved but neglected NLSC reader

Happy Thanksgiving!

The events of the past season to date are far too numerous to capture in this tiny blog space; without exaggeration I could write a book. In fact, I'm inspired by the very idea! (Jots down new book idea...alongside two other recent additions. One is to write about my memorable June trip to SA, highlighting the "friends, moments, countryside" I encountered, to use Peter Gzowski's phrase; the second is to join retired Hroshi's niece from Botswana, Hubble the hippo, on her new writing journey with a trio of pre-tween readers.)

This is my month to write: my week to begin. I am leaving in the morn (via Barb Howe's book launch in Calgary) for beautiful Fairmont, BC, where I will spend my annual Reading Week in silence and in (relative) solitude. My silent partner will join me this year; he finally persuaded me after several years of going away without him that being together is as good as being alone. :)

I have been struggling with some personal quirks (personality-related, I believe, but possibly pointing to deeper issues, according to some voices in my life) over the last little while, and this week will give me just the break I need from (or perhaps for) the season of soul-searching I find myself in. I have packed a few good books, my current journals, and a gloriously empty week-long do-to list.

In concluding this post, please see the next one from Hroshi; it's her autumnal hippopota-news letter. Enjoy.