Wednesday, March 30, 2005

To the "little peanut" in my sister's womb

I can’t wait
to meet you
little one
I can’t wait to hold my cheek against yours
to kiss the top of your head
and let you wrap your little fingers
around my thumb
I wonder
will you be dark like your daddy
will you have red hair like your grandpa
will your laugh ring out with delight
like your mommy’s
will you want to understand the whole world
like your cousin
will your compassion be your compass
like your grandma
I hope
you will be innocent yet wise
questioning yet accepting
compassionate yet strong
bold yet cautious
fanciful yet practical
cynical yet full of wide-eyed wonder
I know
you will be blessed beyond words
a daddy who will
adore you and spend hours just gazing at you
a mommy who will
help you dance to the mystery of life
and delight in discovering the world through your eyes
a grandma who will
climb trees with you and
teach you about love
a mémère and pépère who will spoil you
cousins who will smother you with kisses
and lead you to adventure
aunties and uncles who will
fight over who gets to hold you
and be there for you ever moment you need them
I want
to watch you grow
to see you dance
to follow you for hours when you learn to walk
(especially if it’s at Folk Festival)
to hear you laugh
to be there when you need a grown-up who’s not mommy or daddy
to read you stories
and to see parts of the world with you that you’ve never seen before
I love you already
little one
you will enter the world
surrounded and protected
by love

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Lunch with a friend

she brings
roasted tomato and basil soup
a panini sandwich
and fresh pineapple
it tastes like friendship
she wants to hear
about my trip
about my kids
about the quiet things
that burden my heart
i pour the tea
we add the sugar
i tiptoe down the hall
to peak at my child
finally sleeping after a restless night
we talk of hope
of hurt
we share stories of baggage
the kind that parents
wrap around your shoulders
when they send you away
from home
we talk of restlessness
all those unanswered questions
that threaten our steps
down uneven pathways
it’s not long enough
never long enough
the moments disappear
and she goes home
the children are due home
the work needs to be done
but for this moment
our bowl of soup
and panini bread
were communion wafers
working in us

Monday, March 28, 2005

Gotta love a little manipulation

I just HAVE to tell this funny story, 'cause if I don't write it down, I'll probably forget and it's worth remembering...

We've been so thrilled that Maddie decided to start pooping on the potty. We thought it was just one of those toddler things - deciding in HER timing when she could use the potty as a depository (is that a word?) instead of her panties. Well, when Michele heard she'd reached this important milestone, she thought she'd 'fess up to having a little hand in it.

Turns out that last weekend, when Michele was watching Maddie so we could help Mom move, Michele was looking for ways to avoid the "up to the elbows in poop" situation (her kids are LONG past the poopy diaper stage, and I can't blame her for wanting to avoid it). She encouraged her sons to help her ensure Maddie used the potty while at her house. Well, Maddie has a huge 3 year old crush on one of Michele's sons (calls him "MY boy"), so both boys convinced Maddie that Micah REALLY liked girls who pooped on the potty... and so on and so on.

Hey - if a little manipulation works, than WHY THE HECK NOT? It turns out, Maddie is now a proud "potty-pooper" because she's out to impress a BOY! Egads! I didn't think it would start THIS early! (But I'm not above milkin' it! Perhaps I can convince her older two sisters to clean their rooms because the boys dig it... hmmm...)

Thanks Michele!!! You're my hero! I owe my non-poopy laundry to you!

The geese have arrived!!!

The geese are here! The geese are here!!!

Now, I realize that those people who've never lived in the cold north will not appreciate the significance of this, but let me just say...THIS MEANS SPRING IS COMING! The snow is starting to melt and the geese are finding enough bare fields and open waterways to survive. YAY! That can only mean good things - the geese are usually followed by pussy willows, tentative new blades of grass, frogs croaking... I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Up here in Canada, our hearts start to sing the moment we hear the first honking of the geese. I was climbing out of the van on Saturday when I heard and then saw the flock above my head, flying in the familiar V pattern. My mood was instantly lifted. Soon we will be able to shed these extra layers of clothes and slip our feet into sandals.

If my dad were still alive, we'd go home to the farm in the spring and check his calendar to see when he heard the first sign of frogs. Each spring, he celebrated their arrival by marking it on his calendar. When I heard frogs in Africa, it reminded me of springtime and Dad.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Here comes the bride

How does one prepare for the wedding of your mother? It seems they don't write self-help books for this. At least I haven't found one yet.

Yes, it's official. He gave her the ring, bought her a dress, and they set a date. No less than 6 weeks from tomorrow. That's not much time to get used to the idea of another man sharing my mother's bed.

I'm trying not to make this about me. I want her to be happy. I don't want her to be lonely for the rest of her life. I like Paul, and I think he's good for her. I just wish it didn't have to happen so quickly. I hope it doesn't change her too much.

Nikki's worried that she might have to see them kiss at the wedding. It's a bit much for us all to get used to.

Help! Throw me the life line!

Today I'm drowning in a sea of laundry. Yes, if you've been reading my post, you'll know by now that laundry is my albatross. I'm never caught up, there are always stacks and stacks of it in my laundry room, and nearly every morning I have to hunt for socks or underwear for some member of the family. Today, I was determined to catch up, but I'm only half done, the day is more than half over, and I can feel the energy waning already. Drat!

The good news is... at least there are a few less poopy panties in the laundry. Maddie has finally decided that pooping on the potty is preferable to carrying it around with her in her underwear. Yeah! I won't beat the victory drum yet, but we may be on our way to being DONE with diapers and pull-ups in this house!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

"Mommy, the hurt won't go away!"

It didn’t start off well. There’s just NOTHING fun about listening to your baby cry “owie, owie, OWWIEEE!” for nearly 4 hours in the middle of the night. Maddie woke up at 2:00 a.m., complaining that she hurt – somewhere in the general vicinity of her left ear. She cried and cried, and there wasn’t much we could do about it. “Mommy, the hurt won’t go away!” I tried heating up towels, but that only offered momentary relief. I tried giving her liquid Tylenol, but she spit that all over the bed (MY side of the bed, none-the-less). Finally, at around 6:00 a.m., after I’d managed to get her to swallow enough medicine to wear off the edges of the pain, she fell asleep, and so did I – at least for a little while.

I didn’t go to work. After Marcel had gotten Nikki and Julie off to school and had headed to school himself, I took Maddie to the walk-in clinic. I thought it would be faster than going all the way downtown to our regular doctor, but BOY was I WRONG! We waited for over 2 hours. Fortunately, I’d managed to get her to ingest some more Tylenol before visiting the doctor, so she was in reasonably good spirits. After waiting that long, it took less than 2 minutes for the doctor to examine her throat and ear, determine both were infected, and write her a prescription for penicillin.

By then, the drugs had started to wear off, and she was getting cranky again. We came back home, she took more Tylenol, and before long she was sleeping again.

Somewhere along the line, as I was tucking the blanket around her, making sure she was comfortable, I realized that, in an odd way, this was just the kind of day I needed. It’s hard to explain, but after travelling and working so hard at a new job, I really needed a Mommy day. Today I was director of nothing, communicator of nothing, globetrotter nowhere – I was just Mommy. And that suited me just fine.

Sometimes I forget that I need this. That I want it. I get caught up in being who I am away from this home. And with Marcel picking up so many of the pieces while I’m away, I forget that I’m still needed around here. Once in awhile, especially after I’ve been away for a while and they’ve had a chance to bond without me (and after three weeks it’s especially noticeable), I feel a little outside the circle. I even get a little resentful when Marcel knows things about the kids that I don’t know. I snap at him when he tells me how Maddie likes her toast – he’s not supposed to know more about her than me! There’s also a tiny bit of me that gets jealous when he gets to greet them when they step off the bus, or volunteer for hot lunches at school.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the way our life is working out these days. I love that I can have a great job and not feel guilty about shirking my parenting duties because my kids are well cared for by their daddy. I love that I can travel, and come home to a content family who survived quite well without me. I love it because these roles suit both Marcel and I quite well. I love all that, but deep down, I still want to be Mommy too.

So for today, I got to be just Mommy. I got to hold her on my lap when she cried. I caressed her cheek when it hurt. I tucked the blankets around her, and never once for a moment thought about what needed to be done at the office. Next week, I’ll go back to being “corporate me”, but for today, “mommy me” was quite happy to take the reins.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

And then, sometimes I ROCK!

This afternoon I played "cool mom" instead of "cruel mom". Did a presentation in each of the girls classes this afternoon. About Africa. Now THERE'S a fun way to spend the afternoon. I made sure I inserted enough bathroom humour to keep them giggling (threw in a picture or two of a "squatty potty"), plenty of cool animals for the oohs and aahs, lots of things for them to touch, some jewellery for the girls to try on - you name it.

Nikki and Julie were positively glowing by the end of the afternoon. Gotta love it when everyone in class thinks your mom is cool! Guess this kinda makes up for yesterday's less-than-stellar moments.

Reliving memories of Africa...aahhh! Yes, I wanna go back!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

To Michele

I remember when
I wanted to know her
But didn’t know how to make her acquaintance
How do you tell someone
Hey I like you, I think you’re cool – wanna be friends?
We used to know how, when we were kids
But then we grew up and forgot how
Because we made relationships too complicated
And all those things like kids and schedules and priorities
Got in the way
I wanted to know her
Because she was fascinating
And honest
And had interesting stories to tell
I wanted to know her
Because she had a great laugh
She didn’t pretend to be too cool
She made mistakes and let the flaws show
Finally, one day – I don’t remember exactly when
We started to be friends
We danced the early steps of the relationship dance
We tested the waters with occasional secrets
And opened up corners of vulnerability
We shared lattés
We talked about writing
We told more secrets
We went deeper
The waters felt safe
The truth got easier
Each realized the other wasn’t judging
We could be moms with flaws
And wives with flaws
And it was okay
It felt like home
It felt real
There is comfort in friendship

Can I go back to Parenting 101?

Do you ever get the feeling you are a profound failure as a parent? I do. Regularly. Tonight was one of those nights.

After fighting with Nikki for about an hour over her piano lessons (she's not quite grasping the scale concept), listening to her berate herself for being dumb, listening to her scream at me for making her practice piano instead of going to the mall, I was completely spent.

And what do I get for my efforts? Her pronouncement that she was going to shop for a t-shirt that says "Moms are cruel". Maybe I should go into a t-shirt franchise - I could make a whole whack 'a dough off disgruntled children with t-shirts like THAT!

But...when our fight was over and the dust had settled, what did I do? Well, I made cupcakes for her Easter party at school. Now I ask you, would a cruel parent do THAT?

The mind does strange things sometimes

Driving to IDC last night to return the truck we'd borrowed, I was following behind in the van. Marcel was in the front with all three girls strapped in the back seat of the truck (it's a kick-ass truck with leather seats, you name it - they were quite happy to hang out there).

As the mind does when both body and mind are tired but neither can rest yet, my meandering brain conjured up pictures of the truck in front of me losing control, crashing into a tree, or busting through the railing of the bridge over the floodway. Common sense tried to regain control and convince my non-submissive brain that no such thing was going to happen, but there was no stopping the film-strip flashing before my inner eyes. It wasn't long before I'd almost convinced myself that it HAD happened, and that my life, in one devastating moment, had become devoid of all that I love and hold dear. Before long, as I fought back real tears brought on by the fake scenario, my mind had raced on to envision myself hunched over the bodies of my beloved ones in the ditch.

Crazy how the mind works. Before long, all were safe and sound in the van with me, and the family that did not die drove home to their beds.

Monday, March 21, 2005

My little goofball

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Maddie, part 3

Yes, I'm writing about Maddie again. It's been HER weekend (her birthday on Friday and then her party today), so I guess for now she gets the spotlight.

She's upstairs singing lullabies to the "little peanut" in her tummy. Since Auntie Cyndi and Uncle J-L have been talking about the "little peanut" growing in Auntie Cyndi's tummy, Maddie has decided there's a baby in HER tummy too. When Daddy asked how it got there, she said "well, I ate a peanut yesterday." A few minutes ago, she called from her bed wanting some water, I brought her a glass, and after taking a sip, she looked down at her tummy and said "you're thirsty, eh little peanut?" And then, not long afterwards, Nikki walked by her room and heard her singing "Rock-a-bye baby" to her tummy. Smile.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


good music playing
dropped off my daughter
with good friends who love her
and love me
minutes alone
with lyrics lifting me
above this moment
life is good
love is good
this moment is good
joy bubbles over me
hope bubbles through me
deep breath of peace
voice whispers
don’t you understand?
don’t you get it yet?
this is the presence

of god

One Step Closer (U2)

I'm 'round the corner from anything that's real
I'm across the road from hope
I'm under a bridge in a rip tide
That's taken everything I call my own

One step closer to knowing
One step closer to knowing

I'm on an island at a busy intersection
I can't go forward. I can't turn back
Can't see the future
It's getting away from me
I just watch the tail lights glowing

One step closer to knowing
One step closer to knowing
One step closer to knowing
Knowing, knowing

I'm hanging out to dry
With my old clothes
Finger still red with the prick of an old rose
Well the heart that hurts
Is a heart that beats
Can you hear the drummer slowing?

One step closer to knowing
One step closer to knowing
One step closer to knowing
To knowing, to knowing, to knowing

(Lyrics by Bono)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Short and sweet

Scrolling down my blog, I realize once again that I SUCK at brevity.

So this is going to be my shortest post EVER! (I'm trying REALLY hard to resist another paragraph or three.)

Happy Birthday Maddie!

My baby turns 3 today. Three years ago, this little bundle of personality entered our lives and we haven’t been the same since.

Maddie, you are beautiful. You’re our little superstar. You have so much energy and “joie de vivre” you keep us all entertained. You practically define the word “effervescent”. You have charmed a lot of people in your three years of life – not least of all your parents.

We felt so lucky when you were born – so blessed. We worried about you before you arrived, because we hoped and prayed you would see life. After we lost your brother Matthew, we weren’t as certain about your arrival as we’d been with your older sisters. But when you emerged, and you let out your first holler, our eyes filled with tears of joy and we knew that you would bring light into our lives.

And that’s just what you’ve been for three years – a shining light. People are drawn to you like moths to a flame. Everyone around you fell in love with you – your aunts and uncles, your grandparents, all of our church family, your sisters, your cousins, and even strangers on the street. When Daddy takes you out to a restaurant for breakfast sometimes, I can’t believe how many times waitresses give you things – stuffed toys, books, you name it. It just seems like people can’t resist you. You make us all happy.

You’re so lucky to have so much love, and I think because you’ve been surrounded by it since you were born, you have a unique confidence. You just assume people will love you, so why shouldn’t you just be yourself? You are courageous and bold, my little one. I’ve seen you climb onto the lap of a complete stranger, because you had little doubt that she would love you just like everyone else has always loved you.

Grandpa would have said you have “spunk”. I’m sorry he only knew you for a short while. He would have been crazy about you, my dear. He would have laughed and laughed at your zest for life. He would have hoisted you on his shoulders, and taken you all over his farm, visiting the chickens, riding the pony, feeding the pigs – you name it.

You’ve been a special blessing for your Grandma. I think she got especially attached to you after Grandpa died. You keep her young and you give her joy, even when she felt like life no longer had purpose. You’re so lucky to have her – how many other Grandmas would crawl under the table with you and pretend it’s your camper?

One of my favourite memories of when you were a baby was the summer we spent at the lake after you were born. You were SO happy to lie in your stroller at the beach. We called you our “beach bum baby” because that was where you were happiest – lying in the sun listening to all the other children playing around you. It suits your personality – you’ve always wanted to be where the fun is.

You’re growing into a unique and wonderful girl, my Maddie. You’re confident and brave. You’re strong and sure of yourself. You love people, but you don’t need them too much. Though you like having your parents around, you’re quite fine without us there. You love to laugh and sing. (I just love it when you sing U2 songs with your Daddy!) You’re imaginative and fun.

I’m so happy to be your Mom! I love watching you grow, my little one. I feel so blessed to be part of your life.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Julie doesn't have to get another filling. That's a relief. That poor girl has been cursed with more cavities and subsequent fillings in her short life than I've had in my much longer life. The dentist didn't bother filling this one because it's about to fall out anyway. I hope her "adult" teeth are a little stronger than her baby ones have been.

For some reason I can't explain, there are few things that make me feel more like a failure as a parent than a child's visit to the dentist. ESPECIALLY when their teeth are rotting away. I know I'm being paranoid, but every time the dentist looks in her mouth and finds more cavities, I just feel so JUDGED. Surely I'm a horrible parent if I let them eat too much sugar and don't teach them good dental hygiene. And when she sits there, trying so hard to be brave and fighting back the tears as the dentist gives her a needle in her little mouth, I want to cry too. Couldn't I have done SOMETHING to help her avoid this pain?

Fortunately, this time Marcel took her to the dentist, and I didn't have to suffer the humiliation. But yet again I vow to work on improving their dental hygiene - a vow that will probably last as long as it takes me to type this post.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

How did I get so lucky?

I forget sometimes how lucky I am...

1. He cooks supper almost every night. I climb off the bus, walk down the street, walk in the door, and there he is, greeting me, with the smell of supper wafting from the stove behind him. There's almost always a towel tossed nonchalantly over his shoulder. It's kinda cute. When I walk in the door, he hollers into the basement "Girls! Supper's ready and Mom's home!" How much better does it get than THAT?

2. He likes to tell me how smart I am. REALLY, what woman wouldn't like THAT?

3. After nearly 12 years of marriage, he's FINALLY figuring out how to give decent back-rubs, 'cause he knows how much I love them. (He's not stupid - he knows what I'm willing to do after a good back rub. Ya gotta forgive him, though, for having alterior motives :-)

4. He's so nice to my mom. Even nicer than I am. He fixes her car, shovels her parking spot, hangs things in her apartment for her, fixes her computer, you name it. He likes being nice to her. He even invites her over for supper now and then - entirely on his own initiative.

5. He forgives me when I go away for three weeks and leave him with ALL the responsibilities. And then when I get home, he keeps right on cooking and cleaning and doesn't expect me to make up for lost time.

6. Even though some of my crazy ideas make him cringe, he's developed enough patience over the years to sit back and let me run with them without stopping me in my tracks. He gives me funny looks when I tell him how I'm going to decorate and I try to describe what it's going to look like. He never gets it, but he still says "go for it".

7. He still makes me laugh, after all these years. He's got a goofy, perverted sense of humour. Yes, sometimes I roll my eyes when him and his brother get going, but most of the time, I laugh out loud.

8. He's so darn smart. And brave too. How many men would risk so much and quit work when they're nearly 40 to go to University? And THEN, after 22 years away from school, pull off A's and B's? He's my hero.

9. He's a awesome dad. He's so interested in his kids lives. He pays attention and he gets involved. He's the one who books the dentist appointments, volunteers for hot lunch day at school, packs their lunches, coaches their soccer team, sings U2 with them, helps with their homework, you name it.

10. He knows how to please me, if you know what I mean. Enough said.

11. Even though a part of him is resistant to change, he lets himself be more and more open to new things. He's followed me into alot of new adventures - some stuff he vowed he'd never do - because he loves me and wants me to be happy. And he's learning to like change himself. He's so much more adventurous than when we first met. I'm proud of him for that. Some people never grow that much.

12. I love to hear him sing. He does a great air-band with his kids.

13. He knows WAY more about politics than I do, but he lets me act like I'm smart, now and then.

14. He's good at showing me when he's proud of me. Hearing him brag about my writing or public speaking makes me feel invincible. I like having him in my corner.

15. When I show him this list, he won't know how to react, 'cause he doesn't know how to take compliments. He'll probably make some kind of joke about sex - that's usually his fall-back position when he's a little uncomfortable with something. (But at least I'll probably get a back-rub when I get home.) He's so darn cute!

Sorry, he's already taken. He's MINE! You can just go find your own husband and hope he's half as good as mine.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

2 year old rock star

"Hello, hello. There's a pace vall vertigo."

You haven't LIVED until you've seen Maddie sing U2. You may THINK you've lived. You may even think you've seen other 2 year olds sing cute songs so you don't need to, but you would be wrong. There is nothing cuter than seeing her screw up her little face like a 2 year old Bono impersonator, with an all-too-serious expression on her face, and her lips stretching around the word "vertigo". Nothing, you hear me - NOTHING cuter.

So go ahead, go back to your boring lives and dream about the day when you too will get a chance to see my daughter's Bono impression.

My second favourite "Why'd ya have to go and make things so compicated? See the way you're acting...(at this point it disintegrates into a serious of unrecognizable syllables)... gets me fustrated." And at the word "fustrated" her face shows what looks suspiciously like 2 year old frustration, or perhaps a need to visit the potty.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Grandpas are supposed to live forever

It still doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem fair that my kids won’t hear him make strange cat-like noises when he’s lying on the couch on the edges of sleep but still trying to interact with his grandchildren. It doesn’t seem fair that they’ll grow up and not remember how much joy they brought to his life. It doesn’t seem fair that he won’t give them any more pony rides. It doesn’t seem fair that “Red Bowler” and “Lucky Swimmer” won’t be heard from his lips anymore.

It doesn’t seem fair that other children still get to sit on their Grandpa’s knees. It was at the baby dedication on Saturday that the unfairness hit me once again. Jo’s dad got up to read a poem – “Grandpa Grumps” – about how delightful it is to become a Grandpa. Of course, my eyes turned into watering holes as they still have a tendency of doing when I remember that he’s gone. I miss him for MY sake, but I think I miss him even more for my KIDS’ sake. At least my memories of him are well formed and will always be with me. Their memories of him are already fading. They won’t get to know how wise he was, or get a chance to have an adult perception of him.

While the poem was being read, and my eyes were filling with tears, I looked back to see if I could catch Cynthia’s eyes. I was sure her eyes were welling up too. It’s even more unfair for her. She’ll bring a baby (or two or three) into the world, and won’t even get to see her baby in his arms. She won’t get to see the grin on his face or the sparkle in his eye. Her child won’t get a Grandpa nick-name.

It’s just not fair. Grandpas are supposed to live forever.

Friday, March 11, 2005

D Day

Today is D Day. I'm not sure what the D stands for in this context, but it has that certain ring to it - a monumental day that you've been building up to.

Maybe I should call it P Day. It's the day I meet Paul, my Mom's new boyfriend. Everyone else in the family met him while I was wandering around Africa, and all I had to go on were their brief descriptions of him on the e-mails I picked up in internet cafés. Now I get to meet him myself, form my own opinions, and then somehow prepare myself for Mom's expectation that I tell her what I think of him.

It feels like a little too much pressure being the ONLY one who has yet to make his acquaintance. I'm having mini panic attacks thinking about it. This is probably the man my Mother will spend the rest of her life with. Yes, it's true, they'd only spent a few days together and were talking about marriage already. How's THAT for a heavy message to get when you're in Africa thinking more about whether you're getting a sunburn than about the realities of home and family?

So far, everyone has described him as fairly likeable and, in the words of my eldest brother (the man of a few words) "he's a nice enough guy". I have this fear that when he walks into the house, the pressure will get to me and I'll clam up and not be able to say a word in his presence. Or worse yet, the opposite will happen and I'll talk a blue streak out of nervousness.

It's all fine and good that Mom should find another man - someone to bring her happiness and companionship. But no one can prepare you for the day it happens. As far as I know, they don't write self help books for adults whose parents start dating when the other parent dies. Part of me feels like a little kid - "Hey, get away from my mom! She's MINE and you can't share her!" Part of me feels like a Mother to my own Mother - "Are you sure you're doing the right thing? I mean, after all, we really don't know very much about this young man. Are you sure his intentions are honourable?" Yup, I'm schizophrenic. (But at least I have each other.)

And next week, they're off to Minneapolis to meet one of HIS daughters. Mom could soon have 4 step-children, and a whole whack of step-grandchildren. I'm a little sad for my kids as well - that they may have to share their grandma with too many other kids. Now that she's become a more regular presence in their lives, I don't want that to change.

Aaaahhh! Yes, I'm resisting change and I wanna stomp my foot like a 2 year old!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Elder, schmelder

They want me to be an elder. Someone at church actually thinks I'm grown up enough to be called an "elder". The thought makes me quake in my boots for more than one reason: 1) I'm too YOUNG! I haven't even successfully figured out how to be a full-fledged ADULT yet - how in the name of all that is grown up in the world could I possibly be an ELDER? 2) At this point in my life, my faith feels WAY too shaky to take on the role of someone who's supposed to be a leader, a mentor, a role model, and a spiritual advisor.

It's the second point that gives me the most trouble. A few weeks ago, while I stood staring at all those Christian books of seemingly great yet unattainable wisdom, my faith came tumbling down around me like the proverbial house of cards. I wasn't expecting it to topple like that, so I was rather surprised to see it lying there on the floor. I guess I was still attached to it, though, because I couldn't quite leave it behind in that bookstore. It stuck to my shoes, and I've been dragging it around ever since, kicking it now and then to make sure it's still alive. Sadly, though, I haven't managed to rebuild or revive it yet.

I thought it might reappear in Africa. I thought I might find reason to pump some air into it - either when I needed something to help me cope with the hardships in the drought-stricken and AIDS-afflicted villages, or when I wanted someone to thank for the beauty of the Serengetti (it WAS pretty awesome!). Unfortunately, it didn't happen. In fact, the opposite happened - what little life was left in it got trampled by the anger and frustration I felt for what the church has done in Africa, and what it's doing in Canada to our young people. It was at a church service, in fact, that my faith took the most severe blow.

It wasn't an ordinary church service. Our group held its own little church service in the open-air bar of the safari lodge we were staying at just outside the Serengetti and the NgoroNgoro Crater. First of all, the mini-sermon was delivered by Solomon, a Kenyan lay minister who was travelling with us on part of our trip. The theme of his talk was how God will provide everything we ask for. He spoke with conviction about how God would provide EVERYTHING - a good wife, a good home, good children, etc. - if only we ask him for it and are faithful. It made me feel a little sick. In other words, us rich Canadians sitting around the circle were better at ASKING because God was blessing us more? Dan challenged him and asked what about the person dying of AIDS? Solomon said (again with conviction) that if the person with AIDS repented, then God could still bless him and he could be healed. In other words, AIDS was directly related to sin in a person's life. No WONDER so many people are afraid to admit they have AIDS and it keeps spreading further and further if people will shun them for sinning.

I felt my anger boil inside me as I listened to Solomon talk. I wasn't angry AT him, I was angry FOR him. I was angry that the missionaries who'd brought their tainted religion to his village had taught him lies and half-truths. They've painted a picture of a judgemental, unjust God who blesses white people more than Africans. They've painted a picture of a God who has to fit into a box created by western religion. They've taken SO much from the African people. Church and faith have to be this stifling experience just because that's the way church happens in Europe or North America. Blech!

My anger extended from their to the young people in our group. What really frustrated me was Rachel's (the 19 year old) concern that she couldn't sing the song that moved her most because she was afraid it wasn't "religious" enough. I told her ahead of time that I didn't think she had to worry too much about religion. I was glad when she decided to sing the song she originally wanted to, but it saddened me that young people feel they have to mold into our idea of church to fit into "religion". What does that have to do with GOD?

Oh yeah - there was a third thing at the service that ticked me off. Someone had decided we should have communion. While I didn't have much trouble with that in principle, it DID bother me because I knew we had at least one person in the group who didn't have a faith in the same version of God as the rest of the group and wouldn't be comfortable with taking communion. It felt horribly exclusive to pass the bread around the circle and have only one person refrain from accepting it, so in silent solidarity, I let it pass me by as well.

So here I am - not sure anymore how I define God and what kind of relationship I want to have with him. I know my anger is directed at the CHURCH and not at God, but I'm still having a little trouble separating the two. And next week, they want me to sit in front of the leadership of the church and tell them why I should or shouldn't be an elder. First I have to figure out why I should or shouldn't be a Christian.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Get me out of this airport!

I’ve seen too much of airports already. And I’m not done yet. I’m sitting in Schipol airport in Amsterdam waiting. Again. I should be home by now, holding my children close and trying to recuperate from jetlag.

Leaving Kenya was sad but uneventful. We flew Ethiopian airlines from Nairobi to Rome with a stopover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We flew overnight. I managed to sleep fairly well on the second flight. We arrived in Rome some time between 7:00 and 8:00. When we arrived in Rome, only one of my suitcases showed up. The one I’d bought in Nairobi and filled with souvenirs wasn’t there. We filled out the necessary paperwork and proceeded to our hotel – the Courtyard by Marriott.

The hotel is fairly high end. As much as I appreciated a clean, comfortable room, I wasn’t in the mood for complicated. Too little sleep and a vanished suitcase full of gifts for my family made me a little cranky, and not prepared to cope with a room that had to be “activated”. You have to slide your card in the slot and leave it there in order for the lights to work. Before I figured that out, I had to pee in the dark – not happily, I might add.

Dan and I had breakfast, and then I went to crash for awhile before our meeting. At lunch time, we took a cab to the WFP office. We had lunch with Brenda Barton and Philip Ward, and then had a short tour of their offices. We also had a short meeting with one of the women planning Walk the World who wants us to participate in Canada.

After our meeting, we went back to the hotel. We went for a walk to try to find a restaurant, but couldn’t find anything, so we ended up back at the hotel restaurant.

I was pretty tired, so I went to bed early. I’d been told that my missing luggage had been found and would be sent to the hotel, but nothing had arrived yet. When I woke up, it still hadn’t arrived, so I caught an early shuttle (7:15) to the airport.

When I got to the airport, I got sent to about 3 different desks, only to be told my bag had already gone to the courier. They tried to reach the courier office, but it wasn’t open until 8:00. So I sat in a baggage handling room waiting. At 8:05, they phoned and were told my bag had been dropped off at the hotel. They phoned the hotel and found out that it WAS there. It had been there all the time!! I’d asked THREE different desk clerks, and ALL three told me it hadn’t arrived.

After I lost my temper and took it out on the woman in the baggage room, it was finally arranged that the hotel shuttle would bring my bag back to the airport. I collected it and because it was badly damaged (I guess it doesn’t pay to buy cheap luggage) I had to get it wrapped in saran wrap.

That wasn’t the end of my mishaps for the day. When I got to the gate, they told us the plane would probably leave late because of snow in Amsterdam. Sure enough, it left quite late, and while we were en route, the captain announced that most of us would miss our connecting flight.

When we landed in Amsterdam, we had to sit on the tarmac for about an hour and a half because there was no gate for us, and then no staff available to hook up the gate. I have to admit, as frustrating as it was, I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic for the captain, who sounded very apologetic and frustrated each time he informed us there would be further delay.

When I finally got into the terminal, I found a transfer desk to try to book another ticket. Unfortunately, hundreds of other people were in the same predicament as me. I was number 909 when I arrived, and they were only serving #545. It took a couple of hours before I got to the desk and finally had another ticket. They were going to book me to Vancouver and then to Toronto, because that was where they were responsible to get me to, but I pushed the issue and finally they booked me to Winnipeg.

Fortunately, when I was done, I managed to find a hotel room by calling from the booking desk. I went outside to wait in the snow at what I thought was the right shuttle stop (it was hard to know since the signs were covered in wet snow). By this time, I was nearing the end of my rope, so I just stood there and cried.

The hotel turned out to be quite nice, and despite my blue mood, I tried to make the best of it. I ordered in room service, and then soaked in the luxurious tub watching a movie on TV. (There was a TV in the bathroom!) The room was on the 10th floor, so I had a rather impressive view of the snow-covered surrounding countryside.

This morning, I went down for breakfast and then caught the 8:00 shuttle for the airport. For all intents and purposes, things seemed to be on schedule when I arrived. Unfortunately, it is now more than 2 hours after we were supposed to leave and I’m STILL waiting. There’s apparently too much ice on the platform where the plan is and they have to clear that off before we can leave. AAAaaahhh!! I want to SCREAM! I just want to be home! Not sitting in a noisy crowded airport, surrounded by hundreds of people who are just as frustrated as me!