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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas letter 2013

Recipe for a simple, country life
1 teaching position 300 metres from the house with 

20 wacky pubescent students

1 retired partner who keeps the house and yard running smoothly

1 bushel of daily exercise (walks, bike rides, swims, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing, gardening)

1 very plump cat named Souris (Mouse)

1 old house which we have finally finished renovating from top to bottom

A collection of musical instruments and books

Lots of time to spend reading, writing, making music, cooking, dreaming or laughing with friends and family

All is well in Montebello. I’m into slow living, from slow food to slow travel. I prepare all of my own vegetarian food. I’ll still eat meat when dining in someone’s home or when entertaining carnivores but I prefer to get my protein in other ways. 

Books by John Robbins such as “Healthy at 100” and “Diet for a New America” and “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver, “You can be happy (and it’s cheap)” by Tammy Strobel and blogs such as “Zen Habits” by Leo Babauta influenced me to make definite changes in my eating and spending habits, most of which had been slowly coming for years now. (Jacques has not joined me on this journey but, hey, as long as we are both healthy and happy that’s all that counts, right?)

A few other books which influenced my mindset this year were Michael A. Singer’s “Untethered Soul”, Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and “The Gifts of Imperfection”. I’m striving to have a mindful approach to life and also one of gratitude. 

For years now, I’ve woken up at least an hour early to read and write. I start off by writing at least 3 pages of whatever comes to mind and also about things for which I am grateful. The TV only gets turned on when Jacques gets up. 

I love my quiet time and it helps ground me to be the kind of teacher that I strive to be: one who smiles a lot and who is more inclined to laugh and help clean up mishaps than to scold.

I also lean towards slow schooling. I give my students time to read and write in class for pure pleasure and time to be curious, to wonder and to search for their own answers. 

I don’t overload them with homework. We take time to learn how to raise and care for miracles as small as monarch butterflies and time to walk in the woods and identify trees and plants. And the latest test of my patience? Letting them build and program their own robots with thousands of pieces of Lego all over the classroom floor this past week. They loved it! 

Despite my computer savyness, I hadn’t a clue about what they were doing and resorted to acting like a kindly grandmother who could only nod and encourage their efforts.

Last year, I read over 50 books. I kept a list of all of the books I read this year, but I refrained from counting lest it be addictive. I developed a tendency towards O.C.D. in recent years and I’m battling my way through it.   

I recently stopped counting laps in the pool. I dive into the pool, swim or flop around for awhile and climb out when my mind feels settled. 

For years, I listened to monks singing Gregorian chants in order to lull myself to sleep then I switched to listening to CBC podcasts, and later on to counting down from 100 in English and occasionally in a foreign language which did nothing to slow down my mind. Lately, I’ve decided to just breathe, be thankful and drift off.

A while back, I had visions of writing and seeing my work published some day. I even took courses and workshops and wrote some stuff which I felt good about: short stories, poems and a couple of unfinished novels. I think that I wrote myself into a corner with my middle grade novel. 

I wanted to write a meaningful book like Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. Unfortunately, I am not ruthless enough to be a good novel writer. I love my main characters too much to even put them near danger or to have anything remotely awful happen to them. Consequently, after a promising start, my middle sagged and nothing much was happening in the way of plot. I’ve put the story on a shelf for now. 

I wrote an unfinished adult novel a couple of years ago. In that one, I managed to have the awful thing happen right in the first line of the book. Being poor at decision making in real life, the variety of options in an imaginary world are much too overwhelming for me. I don’t think that I have the stamina to write something as ambitious as a novel. Having the attention of a fruit fly doesn’t help either. I much rather be playing outside. 

I am most suited to writing poems and songs because they are quick and focused like a lens zooming in on a specific situation, emotion, place or time. My best work usually gushes out of me with little need for prodding or tweaking. So much for slow writing.

Thanks to my best friend, Susy, I discovered the joys of tent camping this past July on the shores of my beloved St-Lawrence River. We had grand ideas of driving to P.E.I. by the way of Fundy and back within a week before changing plans on day 2 due to a bit of an anxiety episode in the parking lot at a Tim Horton’s near the New Brunswick border. My buddy is the best sport ever and we turned the car around and drove aimlessly along the 132 and the St-Lawrence. No reservations. No schedule. I really enjoyed what turned into a nowhere trip. We slept meters away from the shore and enjoyed spectacular sunsets.

Ugh! I just re-read myself. A lot like me, me, me, my, my, my. 

I’ll tell you about Jacques. He is well. His routine changes even less than mine, but it works for him. He hums and haws about what he might eat for supper as soon as he gets up. He refuses to eat any of my rabbit food. So, he’s at the grocery store as soon as it opens and grabs something to cook for his supper. 

He goes to the gym and lift weights for an hour. Then, it’s on to the local bar where he sips a diet coke from 9 to 10 am and then again from 3 to 4 pm and gathers the local gossip. (A couple of summers ago, two girlfriends and I went away to Kamouraska to enjoy the good cycling in that region. We stayed at a tiny motel attached to the local watering hole. The same old guys were at the bar or on the patio at specific times throughout the day. It could have been Jacques and his lot.) 

He also walks or rides his bike religiously after lunch and supper. When he is not taking care of the house, the cars, the yard, me, or Souris, he is watching home renovation channels, golf, American football, car races or all day broadcasts of the Charbonneau Commission. (Quebec being renown for its political scandals, commissions of inquiry have become our equivalent of getting into TV series such as Lost or Downton Abbey).

I started off this letter with a recipe and I’ll end it with one too. If you are reading this Christmas letter, you are most likely too far away for me to deliver my Holiday TV snacks package. Mom used to make this recipe and I’ve kept up the tradition.

Oven set at 225 F
On stove top, melt ½ cup of butter, 
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire, 
1 teaspoon of Tobasco sauce, 
2 tablespoons of garlic powder, 
1 tablespoon of onion powder, 
and 1 ½ teaspoons of celery seeds. 

Combine in roasting pan with 1 box of Cheerios, 
1 box of Shreddies, 
500 grams of salted peanuts 
and a medium size bags of pretzels. 

Roast for 90 minutes. 
Stir occasionaly, try not to eat the whole batch before you can share with friends.
Wishing you and your loved ones hope, health, love, friendship, family, courage, peace of mind and peace on earth,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Munsch's The Scream inspired my newest song Slave

 At a writers' workshop with Linda Rief a couple of summers ago, I drew this, my own version of Munsch's The Scream and wrote a poem about what it inspired in me. Basically, it's the struggle I've know over the last few years battling OCD.

The scream by  Julia Nadon, Montebello, QC, August 2012
All of my fears have joined forces against me
Advancing like an army beating drums
My enemies have found their way in
Through cracks in the walls of my mind
I run from dream to memory
Searching for weapons
And strength which might set me free
From the phantoms of doubt and worry
Paralyzed by anxiety
They ambush me
And shoot me
With obsessions
I’m a slave
To these masters
Cruel in their gentility
They say they will protect me
They rape and plunder my soul
Then rear their heads back and laugh
At my weakness
When I carry out my compulsions
To no end
 Desperately trying to exorcise the terror
Their seeds have left behind

All of my fears
Have joined forces against me
Advancing like an army beating drums
They’ve found their way in
Through cracks in the walls of my mind
They’ve found their way in
From room to room I run
From dream to memory
Searching high and low
For some strength to set me free
Paralyzed by anxiety
They ambush and they shoot me
 With obsessions and compulsions
I’m a slave (To these masters)
I’m a slave (They’ved found their way in)

Cruel in their gentility
They say they’ll protect me
While they rape and plunder my soul
Heads thrown back, they laugh at me
They laugh at my weakness
When I carry out their commands
Trying to exorcise the terror
Their seeds have left behind
I’m a slave (To these masters)
I’m a slave (They’ve found their way in)
I’m a slave (To these masters)
I’m a slave (They’ve found their way in)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Working on a new song.

I did what Leo Babauta, the Zen habits guy, said and turned the *&?%* Internet off for an hour and it worked. I was able to concentrate long enough without my fruit fly of a brain buzzing checkng out one thing another and I got the guts of a new song down.
I started by just playing a funky chord from a song I'd learned last year and then I started adding lyrics based on a poem I,d written a couple of years ago, tweaking the lyrics to make them singable.
My fingertips need a break and the home is no longer quiet, so I'll head out and work in it later. Maybe I'll be able to uploaded in a few days.

9:26 pm
Just finished the song.
Will record this week!!


I changed journals at the end of August. I don't really like its thin paper. I've gotten spoiled by Studio Oh and Ecojot journals. I love their sturdy and textured covers and their thick paper makes writing with my Pentel Energel purple ink pens absolutely luxurious.
I bought a small journal at Walmart (I know, I know) because it was cheap and had butterflies on its cover, but I hadn't realized that I would hate writing on ti's flimsy paper. So instead of writing my usual minimum of 3 pages à la Julia Caeron every morning, I'm writing 5 things down in a gratitude list morning and often at night.

There has been a shift in my attitude and perspective. I see the positive or at the very least the not so negative in most everything these days.
I fully intend on purchasing beautiful journals again as soon as possible, but I will keep up with my list gratitude list.

Some of my latest Youtube uploads

I've gotten into recycling old songs. I wrote this years ago and recorded it a couple of years ago when I was putting together a CD of original compositions which I offered as a gift to family and friends. I realized that I hadn't uploaded it to my Youtube channel. So I did just that.

Last spring Remy Shand offered some original music and sent out an invitation for collaborations. I'd been tempted back then but did nothing. While the house was quiet for about an hour a coouple of Sundays ago, I decided to start fiddling with his music. Some lyrics poured out and this is what I came up with.
I direct messaged Remy Shand with a link. He actually retweeted my version of his tune and added to his playlist on his Youtube channel. I'm glad that I dared.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


When trying to create a Flickr account, I realized that I have a Flickr account, but I'd forgotten and wasn't using it.
 Click here if you would like a peek!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Daring greatly

I did it. I sat out on the patio and wrote and doodled what I'd learned from reading Brené Brown's Daring Greatly. Her writing speaks to me.

I love swimming at the Château Montebello pool so much, I wrote a poem

The importance of breathing 
Julia Nadon

I back dive into the deep end
The coolness shocks my body
Why do I this again?
 The first lap always feels awkward
I flip and turn and push off the wall
Back and forth I swim
Reaching further with each stroke
My body turns into an efficient machine
My mind rushes like a movie screen
Playing clips of conversations and
Scenes from my life
Back and forth I swim
I become the observer
My worries blow away
Like clouds across the sky

Sitting meditation won't do it for me
In this pool, my body slices through the water
My mind slows down
I become aware of each and every breath
Lest I drown 

I've been swimming at this pool since I was little. My brother was a lifeguard there so of course anything he did I wanted to do (except for driving trucks for a living). I lifeguarded there when I was still in school and when I chose to come back to live here, one of the first things I did was start swimming here again. I've swum in pools in many places. None has the same calming effect. I hope to swim here until I die.

I can't capture all of the beauty

I've been going on artist dates with myself lately à la Julia Cameron. In the last week, I've been to the city to walk along one street. I've had a massage. I've swum which is also how I meditate.

 I refilled the bird feeders and bird baths and watched my yard come back to life with chickadees, finches and a lone squirrel. I've listened to random music on my mp3 player. I've played the guitar just for fun. I've biked for fitness, for escape and for errands in the village. I've listened to a TedTalk.

This morning as I walked through the woods on my way back from breakfast, I kept whipping my camera out of my purse to capture cliffs, streams, mushrooms, footbridges, moss, slugs and dragonflies. Photo after photo, I tried to capture what I was seeing all around me and I thought to myself that I'll never be able to capture all of the beauty around me. For some reason I felt grateful in my defeat. I'm glad that I'll never be able to capture it all. There will always be something to go after. I also wondered how is it that we can capture images, sounds and movement, but we still can't record smells, tastes, the warmth of the morning sun on our shoulders or the feel of the breeze on my face.

I finished reading Brené Brown's Daring Greatly while having breakfast overlooking the golf course. I copied so many passages into my journal. I'm thinking of organizing them somehow through mindmapping, at least I'm going to try.

Monday, June 24, 2013

End of the school year

Have  I mentioned anywhere on this blog that my day job is being a grade 6 teacher in a small francophone village in the Outaouais in Quebec? I teach all subjects except art and phys. ed. in French which is the first language here. I've always wrestled with my own linguistic identity, but that's another blog post.

The last day of school was Friday and I officially said goodbye to 16 awesome kids who, for the most part, have spent 7 years in our school, the last 2 being in my classroom. The poor babies. With similar mixed emotions as when I raise monarchs from eggs and caterpillars and must release them for their 4000 kilometer trek down to Mexico in the fall, I must let these chickies to fly off to high school.

I've been silently grieving their departure since early spring. I go through this grieving process every year but I've found that every 7 or 8 years, I get a group of kids whose personalities combine to make a wholesome and creative dynamic within the confines of the classroom which in turn, allows us to break down the walls of our confinement and soar beyond. These kids were curious, eloquent, many were well-read, some were well-traveled, and if not, at least willing to open themselves to new ideas and possibilities. Now, what could any teacher wish for beyond that?

I used my discipline system once or twice for a couple of March when we were all getting tired and needed a break. Besides that, the kids basically managed themselves. Any conflicts were resolved in cooperative meetings on Fridays.

I figure that I will retire in 8 or 9 years. I might get another similar cohort before then. If not, well, that's fine, too. I have found that while some years have been tougher to get through, I come out at the other end stronger and having learned how to deal with each child with more compassion. I find myself mellowing with each year. I no longer entertain battles of wills. Adults are often on the losing end with kids and when we do win, it can be at the expense of someone's ego. I don't want to chip away at anyone's self-esteem. Heaven forbid that I should do or say something that would hurt one of my charges.

As I wrap up report cards and face long lazy days to rejuvenate, I am thankful for this school year and eagerly await the next bunch of kids who will teach me a lot more than I have to teach them. 

I am most fortunate to live in a tiny village of 978 souls. I get to see many of my students grow up, go off to study, find jobs that they love, and sometimes come back to start families of their own.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Going back to Writers' workshop with Linda Rief in August at La Sapinière

I just registered. It took me awhile to to decide. I would go to bed at night asking myself the same question hoping that the answer would somehow appear on my pillow when I woke up the next morning. I waited so long that I even called La Sapinière on this past weekend fearing that there would be no rooms left. The front desk clerk reassured me that there was still room at the inn. I had a couple of things to juggle around to make it all work out, but as I consulted trusted friends, I realized that deep down I really wanted to go back.
The writing which flows out of me during that week is unlike what I write the rest of the year. there is a synergy. I love the camaraderie. I enjoy being able to live in English for one week.
I look forward to going back.

I almost quit my book writing course and my kids' novel, again. My instructor was kind in his response despite the schlock I knowingly sent him earlier this spring. I slumped in the middle of the novel and I put pressure on myself to send something in after having pushed my hand-in date back several times.

So, I 've decided to rewrite the sagging middle chapters and try to get them to be worthy of a young reader's time and attention.
Next due date: August 1st, 2013.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Spring has sprung!

We've been enjoying incredible weather over the last few days. I don't mind having so much paper work with end of year exams because I can bring my work out onto the deck in front of the house or to the veranda which overlooks the flower beds.

I've taken to sleeping with the windows open. The many migrating birds wake me up while it's still dark. Souris, our cat, licks my hair in an attempt to get me up for loving and feeding. Sometimes, I slumber on until it's light, sometimes I am grateful to get up and enjoy the sunrise and get a start on my day. Getting a start on my day means sitting down with a coffee to read, write, sip coffee (which I have decided not to give up just yet) and search the fields and hills for signs of wildlife.

Last night, as I walked a friend home from an after dinner stroll down to the river, I realized that from many houses in the village, people don't see the sunset or sunrise as we do. For many villagers, the sun just disappears behind someone else's house or garage without any fanfare at all. From our home, each sunrise and sunset is worthy of a painting, a song, a poem or at least a few silent breaths of gratitude for the promise of a new day or the survival of another day.

At the end of the day, I try to remember to ask myself "Did I live well? Did I love well?"

 I hurried home to catch the last rays of light dipping below Mount Westcott where the Château Montebello has its golf course. In the morning, the sun rises from behind a mountain east of our home illuminating our master bedroom.

I am grateful for the view here. Before there were street addresses in the village, Mom had aptly named the house Hillview House. I like that name. It suits this house well. I truly believe this house has good bones just like Didier said that my 114 year old Krakauer piano had a good soul when he came and tuned a couple of months ago.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Another gorgeous Sunday

I didn't write a thing for my novel this weekend. I was sooo good last weekend, wipping out 2 chapters. Oh well, it's no use going through a handy list of excuses or beating myself up. I hardly ever miss journalling. I got my 3 morning pages (à la Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way) every day this week except for this morning.

I met my best buddy for a long, gabby breakfast halway between our towns. It is always comforting and energizing spending time together. It's simple and easy and we "get" each other. What a gift!

I went for a long walk in the woods with another friend. We met other villagers out and about in the woods enjoying the March sunshine. The snow is packed and hard enough now that we can get around without our snowshoes.

Every now and again, I love reading

I've been reading  Brené Brown's The Gift Of Imperfection this week. I love this book. I'm copying so many passages in my journal.

Here is aomething called a vowel check:
A: Have I been Abstinent today? (Abstinent of numbing behaviours)
E: Have I Exercised today?
I: What have I done for myself today?
O: what have I done for Others today?
U: Am I holding on to Unexpressed emotions today?
Y: Yeah! What is something good that happened today?

I also looked up "lovebombers" because Brené Brown referred to this group of ladies who gather for a long weekend once a year. I discovered a gorgeous blog

I just discovered that Brené Brown has a popular TedTalk called The Power of Vulnerability which I must check, but not now. It's time for a bedtime snack.