Aggregate \Ag"gre*gate\, a. [L. aggregatus, p. p.]

Formed by a collection of particulars into a whole mass or sum; collective. To bring together. Syn: To heap up; accumulate; pile; collect.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Little House on the Mountain...

Slippers are definitely in order today. And a hoodie. And maybe some mittens. But, under no circumstances am I going to turn on the furnace. 

Today is the last day of August and there is frost on my (over-turned-but-at-least-it-is-still-tied-to-the-tree) composter. Ouch - I forgot to cover my tomatoes. Well, maybe not forgot, but I procrastinated because I could not believe that fall has come so quickly. It literally has fallen on us here in Rossland. I hope that maybe this observation is premature, due to my living in Vancouver for almost 10 years I am prone to complain about the weather as soon as it happens, so maybe I shouldn't worry about covering the tomats tonight because it might warm up again right?! Did I mention the forecast is calling for snow showers on Red Mountain (located slightly up the hill and to the left of our house) tonight?

Ughhhhhhhh, sometimes I wish I was gifted with a disgusting amount of "go get 'um". I didn't dry any of my herbs, nor do I know how, I have no idea when I should be planting bulbs for next year, the garden is still mayhem after the last few windstorms and there is a never ending list of to-do's inside as well. Some of these include: a new furnace, a hood over stove, a new water tank, replacing single pane windows...then there are the wants (like a garage) that I will not even get into!

So I guess I'll take the poppets to the park before I need a sled...I'll be the one in my Uggs complaining about the weather!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Homage Monday - Artists in Training

Children have an astounding capacity for art. It seems as though the world itself, this huge learning experience, is tangible to them through artistic endeavour. They are like tiny walking musicals. The rules that seem to bind a society into propriety do not apply and as much as children are sticklers for black and white, right and wrong, the idea that being covered in paint (or any media for that matter) from head to toe then breaking into song (and dance) would be abnormal does not occur to them. Yet. Thank goodness.

In this brief moment when we as parents, friends and pundits are training them to live inside the box (to  keep them happy and safe) they are blessedly on the fringes, balancing on the threshold of total freedom. Therein lies the rub. Teaching them to follow their bliss, but not into traffic. To nurture their artistic being, while shaping their social responsibility. To instill in them empathy, while maintaining self-worth. To teach a child to give of them self freely, without giving them self away.

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Tiny Moose

A few weeks ago we had a house guest. This guest was not entirely unexpected, but had been somewhat waylaid, so when they finally snuck in unannounced it took me a little by surprise. My husband was out of town for work and so I was forced to host the guest alone. The visit was fiery, tumultuous, and although it seemed like they would never leave, just as stealthily as this guest had come they were gone.

I am a firm believer in the notion that a child never misses a stage, so I have no idea why I thought that my beautiful intelligent daughter would somehow escape the developmental stage known as the terrible two's. Or terrific two's. Whatever the euphemism you choose to use at some point this guest arrives. At two and a half, Mussolini's arrival should not have shocked me, but it did. She was stretching her new found independence and it is reminiscent of a baby bird upon hatching. Fugly. My tiny Moose stomped around shaking her fist, barking orders, screaming, pitching herself, accepting nothing less than complete submission and just being an all around tyrant. The fact that she responded to "Moose" as a nickname is probably what enabled both her and I to survive!
Our house guest.

When Moose was visiting I had an epiphany of sorts. It is often those who are most similar to us that rub us the wrong way. It is easier to see their shortcomings reflected back at us since we know these flaws so intimately. All this I knew (in my head!) but the revelation was this: this knowledge should be giving me a leg up! Isla was going through something. It was new and scary and no more enjoyable for her than it was for me or Jack. If I knew how she felt, what would I have liked the response to be? Easier said than done, but sharing this life with her is my practicum.

Anyhoo, Isla kicked Moose to the curb and a modicum of decorum has returned to our home. Thank goodness.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Art of Fear

Oh the art of fear, it is a delicate balance. Fear is designed to keep one safe. We inherently come with a fear of heights and/or falling. Oprah encourages us to follow our fear, meaning that this primal instinct is king queen when it comes to self preservation.

But Fear can be a wily creature that, when left unfettered, has a tendency to grow wild and spread pervasively. Having its root in rational fear is what can make irrational fear especially tricky. I have rational fears but growing children has exacerbated my penchant for irrational fear. My imagination has taken what was meant to keep me and mine safe and run amuck: how could I possibly get two small children out their car seats and to safety should our truck carreen into an icy river, I no longer sleep naked since I don't fancy rescuing the kids and taking them to safety in the nude, I don't like flying or travelling long distances with both kids or just me and my husband for fear I would orphan the kids or desert my spouse if there were a terrible accident, and I am terrified by the idea of my beloveds toppling off some precipice. Oh, and deep dark bodies of water freak the crap out of me, that one is new. 

Knowing these fears are irrational is half the battle I think (the other half being the art of discerning what is a rational fear or intuition) and I have developed methods of mitigating them. Sometimes it is as simple as saying to myself, "that is silly, drop it." when we walk across a bridge. I choose to focus on my joy and not an imaginary loss. Still there are other times, when the fear is more nagging and persistent, that I allow myself to move through the fear. I imagine the worst that could happen, and the limits that I have to control it.  What is out of my control is out of my control. Acknowledging that I have done my part to reduce the likelihood of a tragedy befalling my household before dawn brings a sense of peace. I unplug things, I wear clothes to bed, and I say a prayer. I give away the fear. C'est la vie.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Homage Monday - Jed Burdick

Jed Burdick:

  • Filmaker
  • Owner/Creator of Votary Films
  • Director
  • Writer
  • Storyteller
  • Father to five enthusiastic boys
  • Husband to one charming and beautiful wife

Here is an homage that Jed created for his wife of 10 years, whom he adores endlessly. It was so unbelievably romantic I simply could not resist sharing!

10 years from jedidiah burdick on Vimeo.

The first time I had the pleasure of meeting Jed he was one of Michael's best men at our wedding. Years earlier Mike and Jed were drawn together by their similar humours and affinity for film. Jed is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. You are at once disarmed by his humility and charisma, he is all heart. His talent is undeniable. Coupled with passion and perseverance, these are the things that make him an extraordinary filmmaker. Here is the man himself:

The Legend of Oak Swamp - The Craft from Mikel J. Wisler on Vimeo.

In 2007 he invited Michael and myself to join him and his family in Indiana for the making of his inaugural feature length film, here is the fantastic trailer for Silk Trees. It is a film that Jed wrote, directed and edited and we were greatly blessed to be counted as a part of this chapter in his journey. Currently Jed has embarked on a new adventure. His next production is The Legend of Oak Swamp and the Mysteries of Ironwood. It is the first instalment in a trilogy and he has filmed a concept trailer (to give investors a rough idea of his vision and direction) in order to raise funds to finance the making of the film with him at the helm. This innovative grassroots campaign even offers donors a credit in the film itself. 

Legend of Oak Swamp Concept Trailer from jedidiah burdick on Vimeo.

The Legend of Oak Swamp - The Story from Mikel J. Wisler on Vimeo.

Jed is quickly assembling an incredibly talented team, and you can be a part of it all too! Join the Facebook Fan Page, spread the word, donate, and become part of "The Legend"!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Freaky Friday

I spent the entirety of yesterday driving to Vancouver. For whatever reason I was feeling a little car sick. Being carsick as a backseat passenger is something I have never really been able to grow out of, but it usually seems to be abated by sitting in the front seat.  Anyway, Thursdays all day ride sent me reeling down memory lane.

I have always had a heightened sense of smell. I am not allergic to anything per se but I am often at the whims of my nose. I must choose my perfume (which I use sparingly and only on occasion) not only based on whether or not I enjoy the fragrance, but whether or not the scent gives me a migraine and makes me violently ill.

When I was pregnant with Jack I had the perma-heaves. It was gross. I was tossing my cookies up to twelve times a day. I constantly craved whatever, but when I had secured the whatever in my chubby pregnant hands, two bites in, I found the whatever wholly unsatisfying and promptly suffered through whatever being ejected from my body. I was miserable. Despite having reservations I resorted to medication. To my dismay/delight the tiny pills simply dulled the constant nausea and did little in the way of preventing chunder, making the decision not to take them easier.

Now some smells were worse than others and even thinking about onions or coffee brought on a bought of the barfs, which lasted well beyond the "normal" 16 week mark. In fact it took months after Jack was born for my onion aversion to ebb. The strangest thing (or so I thought at the time) was that it wasn't just the smell of food that made me ill, but the smell of places. The office where I worked was one such place, which, at the time, made me think this affliction was purely psychosomatic.

Round two: Isla. Second verse, same as the first. SOOOOO sick, but now I have a curious toddler pawing at me as I hang over the commode. Oh, and this time around I manage to break blood vessels around my eyes whenever I retch. We are in a small rented apartment in Indiana while we film a movie and the smell of our living quarters makes me ill. Then a new, unexpected side effect takes hold. This is the actual strangest thing - I develop a visual/aural aversion. Not just to a food commercial, which was old hat, but to jingles. The Elder Beerman ads were the worst. They ran frequently and muting the catchy/annoying tune wasn't enough (due to my aforementioned phonic aversion having intertwined itself with the images of insidious plug) bringing me to my knees.

Fast forward three years to yesterdays motion sickness. I am rarely sick, which is why I probably haven't noticed the kryptonite to my lingering pregnancy super powers. Aside from wider feet and heightened sense of smell and mommy intuition, it would appear that when under the weather I am still affronted by musical compositions. Good to know I guess.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To Whom It May Concern...

This blog began as an experiment.  I have never been a journal keeper, though I have always had much admiration for those who keep regular thorough account of their lives. My husband maintains the most wonderful travel journals. The last trip Mike and I took together I did make a point of sending the kids a postcard everyday. Almost all of the cards arrived after we returned but it really felt like some sort of accomplishment for me, they catalogued where and when we were and the minutia I surely would have forgotten otherwise. Apparently, for me, being culpable keeps me focused.

Despite my inability to reliably keep a journal, I have always loved to write. My family has imbued me with a legacy of actors, teachers and story tellers. In my youth I wrote prolifically, I have no idea how good it was or not because when I wrote I never kept it. Young and passionate, I wrote very personally, and the thought of someone else reading my stories, plays and poems sent me running script in hand to the bin.

ag.gray.gate is actually my second blog. A few years ago I posted my first and last entry on a blog entitled "The Everygirl". It went a little something like, "Well we'll see how this goes". It didn't. My former Twitter account also mirrored this lack of zest and is now defunct. These two failures hung heavy over me whenever I thought about starting a new blog. A few of my friends had started writing blogs of their own and I wondered if, maybe this time, I could do it too.

A little unexpected and unsolicited encouragement from a family friend set me in the direction. I put the idea of ag.gray.gate (and myself) out there, guns blazing and both feet in, actively telling people that I was writing and risking rejection every time I asked a friend to follow. Amongst fantastic family and friends who follow this blog, I am also blessed with patronage from those whom I have never met. They follow because they support others in this blogging community or better yet simply because ag.gray.gate is an enjoyable read!! Somehow, it never ceases to amaze me that I meet with resistance about reading or following after having known someone for years. It is as though for some it is giving away too much to participate in another's journey toward success. Life lessons I remind myself.

The process of keeping this blog has been full of lessons for me. First: I have really come to love it and 3 months in am taking it quite seriously. Blogging has been a wonderful outlet. When I sit down to write I am disembarking from the mundane while at the same time drawing upon it and focusing in on it in order to find the humour and my gratefulness. I look forward to writing. I keep an idea log in my new moleskin journal just like Hemingway would. I ordered business cards for pete sake! Second: I have slim to no tech prowess so this has been a steep learning curve (despite how relatively easy it has become over the past few years with designers creating forms, tutorials, and free stuff) what with buttons and banners and headers and layering. Third: Albeit not entirely unexpectedly (apparently being a blogger makes me an inherent comment whore) I love hearing what you have to say!

So thank you for all of your love, thank you for your auspcie, and thank you for taking time from your day to escape with me! Until tomorrow...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Homage Monday - Sara Bynoe

This Monday marks a new feature on ag.gray.gate. It is the start of my weekly homage to the artists I know.  These artists appear in no particular order but have touched my life in one way or another, I love and admire these people and the capacity they have to follow their passion.

Sara Bynoe -
I first met Sara-without-an-H when we began theatre school together in Calgary. She has a killer smile, beautiful bright eyes, a laugh that makes you feel better about the world and enough talent to knock you right on your ass. Oh, and she has a Master's Degree. She has been featured in news and magazine articles across the country, from BC' s own Tyee to The Globe and Mail (not at all for the same thing) and nominated for a literary award in New York. Sara is truly an ecclectic artist and her passions have served her well. She is an actor, a writer, a painter, a singer, a dancer, a comedian, and a producer. 
After graduating from Mount Royal, Sara attended/graduated from the presitgious Studio 58 in Vancouver, then it was off to merry old England and when she came home to Canada she sported an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London. Yeowzah!!! Those are the broad strokes. In there somewhere she also wrote and performed her own pieces at The Fringe (Vancouver/Victoria), The High Performance Rodeo (Calgary), and had Teen Angst (a collective of contributions from those courageous enough to go digging through the recesses of their painful, terrible teenage repetoire) published, hosting readings both nationally and internationally.  

More recently Sara has brought the popular phenomenon known as Dance, Dance, Party, Party to Vancouver.

Currently Sara is hosting "Say Wha?! - Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing"

From her website:


Upcoming shows: Wed Sept 22, Wed Oct 13, 
Wed Nov 17 and Wed Dec 15.
Cottage Bistro – 4470 Main Street @ 29 Ave
Cost: $5 minimum suggested $10
Want to read at Say Wha?! READ THIS
I am sure I am missing a heap, the girl is busy! So there it is my first artist homage; celebrating a woman who has an incredible knack for taking "fun" and turning it into a career! 

****If you are an artist and I know you I will most likely be contacting you to ask your permission for a Monday Homage. However if you want to be featured sooner than later or that you have fallen through the cracks email me:  There is no shame in self promotion!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Olympic Sized Adventure - Part 2

Olympic Sized Adventure - Part Two: The Adventure becomes Legend.

Where was I? Oh yes, lineup one was winding towards the gate and we were about to head into lineup two for the Coca-Cola Pavilion. It was all downhill from there. As my girlfriend Chrissy and I rolled two strollers and 5 children into the breach once more Jack spilled his hot chocolate into his seat. All of it. Into the seat of a stroller with a cover that cannot be removed because the manufacturers maintain that its surface can be easily cleaned with a brush and a damp cloth, of which I had neither. Awesome. I have yet to remove these stains by the way and  it is not for a lack of trying. I digress.

Lineup two heads inside, finally, I thought. But no, we are herded into lineup three. This is when I discover Isla had silently, without affect, filled her seat with her hot chocolate. So now we are in very close quarters with hundreds of people and I am all, "Look on the bright side Alicia, at least you are not claustrophobic! Her back will be to the wall in the picture. I know it looks like she shat her pants but at least it doesn't smell! Think about the picture with the torch, Jack and Isla will tell their children about this day."

It was then one of them darted, I still can't remember who, half disappearing in to the multitudes and it all gets a little blurry. In this tiny room teeming with goodness knows who my MommaBear kicked in and I frantically grabbed for my child and fumbled my camera. This is the camera that Michael and I had gifted each other for our 5th wedding anniversary and this was by no means the first time it had been fumbled, but this was the day that it broke. Moments before I would use our too-expensive-to-replace-right-now camera to take once in a lifetime family heirloom photographs of my precious hot chocolate soaked children with the Olympic Torch. To say that my heart sank would be to downplay my sentiment enormously.

The meandering line pushed forward. Queue-mates proffered words of kindness and condolence, my face having told the tale, my wonderful friend said that she would be more than happy to take pictures of my kids too. Crestfallen I wandered on, into yet another room, then another still. Three hours in this day was feeling old and so was I.

This last room was where the coveted torch was kept. We ushered the kids into the appropriate lane (there were heaps of activities I had neither the energy nor the desire to take the kids to) and felt my heavy heart lift. Coke had provided professional photographers and individualized links to your picture online. Granted it would be flanked in advertising but I was stoked. Until, at the front of the line after HOURS of waiting, Miss Isla decided she was NOT, under any circumstances going to have her picture taken. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!!!!

Jack had his taken. Then Mommy. Then Isla relinquished begrudgingly, but not without conditions!

I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I just wanted to go home. I changed Isla (who was still in the throes of potty training) into the dry clothes I had brought, searched the grounds for something to sop up the now cold/congealing chocolate mess in the stroller and got ahold of my husband. He wasn't coming. Work was hectic and he wouldn't be able to get downtown before 5, which meant I still had as many hours to kill.  Awesome again.

Chrissy graciously offered to stay for lunch and so we squeezed our party of 7 into Subway. Then she (insert pang of jealousy here) took her tired babies home. I needed to get a birthday present so I walked from Gastown into downtown amid throngs of our cities guests all the way down Robson. My children had fallen asleep when I ran into Jack's godfather. I saw his camera and asked where he had been. The Cauldron. Great. I would take the kids when they woke and steal his photos, his would be better anyway! I told him about the adventure our day had been, and yet again in an attempt to be optimistic I spouted, "Well, at least she didn't pee, right?!"

Fast forward to the GAP. Browsing through the racks of clothing I can hear my precious cargo stirring in the stroller. I notice a puddle under Isla's seat. A trifecta of AWESOME!!! I am out of dry clothes so I buy her an uber cute pair of purple skinny jeans on sale. They in no way go with her outfit and I practically have to wrestle them onto her.

It is now 5 o'clock, we sit outside the Gap on Robson, leaning against the window, awaiting Michael's imminent arrival. Isla is digging the tunes. She has a sizing sticker half hanging off her cheek. It looks like a microphone. She dances, like no one is watching, hands on her hips, her recent skullet still shorn close, wearing her new jeans and a terribly mismatched olympic sweater, and begins to scoop at the air. Big grasping scoops as though she is wafting some unnoticed scent towards her torso, then over her face. It was hysterical and very much to the amusement of prolific amounts of tourists passing by. She honestly looked like a tiny crazy person and her innocence washed away the stress of the day.

I wish I could have taken a picture to share with you, but the latter half of this day will have to be passed down through the good old fashioned art of story telling alone.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Olympic Sized Adventure - Part 1

Both my husband and myself have had the pleasure of living in two Olympic host cities. In 1988 we were elementary school students in Calgary and in 2010 we were lucky enough to be living on the Left Coast when the opportunity came around again.

Like many Vancouverites we contemplated renting out our home to turn a tidy profit and take off somewhere, anywhere,  for the duration of the 2010 games. But I caught some sort of procrastination bug and so we stayed. Truth be told we were REALLY excited the closer February got, both for the kids and ourselves!

Despite the ill-timed arrival of the Pineapple Express, the kids and I braved a virtual squall to greet the torch as it ran by. We stood expectantly, brimming with pride and excitement, amid the masses for a moment that, although it came and went in the blink of an eye, has lingered with us. It was then I decided what I would really like was for the kids to have their picture taken with the torch. Yes, I thought, a picture with the torch would be epic.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee held a lottery for Olympic tickets and we were delighted to secure 4 reasonably priced tickets to Women's Hockey. The women slaughtered the other team and our little family had a blast. We were officially swept up in Olympic fever!
My desire to have a photo of my children was only fuelled by the fervour. We picked a day that Michael would head off to work early then meet us downtown (in the heart of Olympic mayhem) by 11am so that I would be able to get back on Skytrain with my enormous stroller. Ridership was up  by dizzying proportions during the Olympics, which was great, but commuting with two knee-highs really had become a two man job at this point.

Once Jack, Isla and myself made it to Gastown we met up with some great friends and headed to Starbucks for sustenance. I bought the kids their own reusable mugs, filled with hot chocolate, and we headed into the breach joining the first of 3 hour long lineups by 9am.

Everything was going swimmingly, I could practically see the pictures of my children's smiling faces proudly clutching the torch, but that was all about to change.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I have a longstanding love affair with CBC Radio 1. It began innocently enough as a young girl in my grandparents home where it was a constant not-so-white-noise in the background. On hot summer days the sounds from my grandmothers antique 35 watt Motorola radio could be heard drifting out of the kitchen. The wonderful cadence and vocal tones of their hosts and story tellers, every half hour the regular musical cues aloft in the house. The sound of the 10 o'clock count takes me back there everyday. To Jintie's garden and afternoon tea in the seat that was my mother's when she was young.

On road trips with my parents we would listen to Radio 1 as long as we could get a signal. A signal was good, it meant postponing the inevitable Glen and Jeanie duet to Blue Rodeo/Conway Twitty/Johnny Cash/... or the like that I dreaded as a teenager. Life is funny that way. I would give almost anything to sit in that backseat and give an audience once more.

Later, at my husband's family cabin, the summer CBC found me all over again, rekindling the passion. My grandmother had since passed away and the infamous radio had been bequeathed to me. It sat patiently and quietly in my basement room at my parents house. Years passed and I finally brought the 6X12U to Vancouver where it found its new home on my kitchen counter. The radio became my young family's morning ritual with Jack and Isla chiming in excitedly, "he/she said Canada lives here, we live in Canada too!".

Now in Rossland, on the living room side table, my beloved radio sits silent once more. There are no AM signals here nestled between the mountains. Instead I have added an app to the iphone. Streaming FM radio live over the internet ushers in the old tradition of a radio-coloured backdrop in a new way, ensuring our home is filled with story telling and music from across the land.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Return of the Rainy Day

When I was a girl growing up in Alberta rain was always so romantic. First there was this amazing smell. Then smell of ozone my parents would always say. Giant towers of cumulus clouds would roll in, usually with a breathtaking thunderstorm in tow, and the sky would open up in a spectacular fashion to unload its heavy burden. Then as quickly as the storm came it would be gone. Making Rainy Day plans is a tradition I have cherished since childhood. Saving up ideas for rainy day art and games, staying inside to snuggle up with a snacks and a movie. Bliss.

I travelled to Europe as a teenager and in France I was thrilled to feel truly warm rain for the first time. Later I visited Bali in the rainy season (at 99% humidity being dry was a relative concept) and the sudden rain would fill the streets, careening between raised sidewalks designed to channel the deluge. And despite its coastal perch, Perth Australia  reminded me of my Alberta home, hot and dry with spectacular summer storms.

In the fantastically green, fertile and lush city of Vancouver rain is different still. There is, except on the rarest of occasions, a distinct lack of that fantastic rain smell. There is no fanfare to herald the arriving wet. Thick dark clouds crawl across the city lingering for hours, days and at times even weeks. The winter Isla was born I swear it was 6 months before she felt the sun on her face. A lifetime. As much as I adored the Rainy Day ritual from my childhood, implementing it in Vancouver would be a great way to become a fat hermit (instead, Vancouver grinds to a halt to celebrate the snow day!). There were mornings that Jack would wakeup in the looming darkness and wonder out loud at the breakfast table if it were night time already. It would seem that, despite being native Vancouverites, my poppets were never thrilled by the Pineapple Express.

Shortly after landing in Rossland there was a sun shower. A sun shower! It was brief, it smelled fantastic and the sun shone the whole time.  Jack just about had a panic attack, "Mommy you told me it didn't rain in Rossland!". "Jack" I said, "I never said it wouldn't rain here, but the rain here is not like Vancouver and it'll be over soon." And like that it was gone. On Friday we had our first rainy day, and even that didn't last the whole day. I told the kids about why rain smells the way it does, just as it was explained to me by my parents, and I am so looking forward to finally passing along the legacy of the Rainy Day.

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