Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I am from

Inspired by Owlhaven (a recent addition to my blogroll), I wrote an "I am from" post. What fun! If you want to join in, she has a template here. It's a great excuse to take a little walk down memory lane. Here's mine...

I am from horses without saddles riding down road allowances on sunny afternoons, from John Deere tractors with broken seats and Heinz ketchup cans full of old tools. From bumpy rides on school buses down gravel roads, and from snow forts in winter and bale forts in summer.

I am from the little green house with no bathroom and cold running water heated on the stove for baths in the tin wash tub, from the new house with real bedrooms, from a living room with a different furniture arrangement nearly every week, and from the pig barns with squealing weanlings under heat-lamps.

I am from the chokecherry trees, lilac bushes, wheat fields and willows, the sandy soil, mud puddles, snow storms, and the smell of pigs. I am from the prairies, both harsh and friendly, from tiger lilies and crocuses, from quack grass and weeds as tall as the barn. From bitter cold winters buried under the snow, and sunny summers with breezes dancing through wheat fields and stands of poplar.

I am from springtime picnic lunches on the field next to Dad’s tractor, and Sunday morning scrambles to get to church on time, from Arthur and Margaret, Bradley, Dwight and Cynthia. From the grandpa who died on our front lawn, the grandma who liked to giggle and feed us chicken noodle soup, the grandpa with the dry sense of humour, and the grandma who was tiny and strong and who travelled to Africa when she was eighty.

I am from the family that didn’t go to community dances or bingos but never missed church on Sundays. From faspa on Sunday afternoon with aunts and uncles, friends, or the visiting minister. From a visit to the neighbours to watch the Sound of Music on their TV, and from bicycle rides with my best friend Julie.

From “don’t chew gum in church”, “clear your plate – there are children starving in Africa”, and from “bad things always happen in threes”. I’m from “you COOKED it? But that bird spoke seven languages” and “that hag Madam Yvonne with her chicken fat”.

I am from faithful, hardworking, peace-loving Mennonites who shun alcohol and love their neighbours as themselves. From a mom who loves water fights and tells the best children’s stories in church, and a dad with bushy eyebrows, a Bible tucked under his arm, and a question always on his mind.

I'm from Russia where my ancestors fled for their commitment to pacifism and their resistance to war, from a hospital in Steinbach where my mother nearly bled to death, and from Arden, a little prairie town with an elevator, a grocery store, a post office, and a swinging bridge over the river. I’m from “forma vorsct” and “vereniki”, from “plooma moos” and “rollkuchen”. From the smell of fresh bread and the sound of my Mother singing when I walked in the door after school.

I am from the day my sister nearly burnt to death and I came home from a field trip with only Mr. Bateman to give me pieces of the story, from the high school band trip to Toronto that my brother Dwight paid for so that I didn’t have to miss it, and from the tree house behind the barn that my brother Brad built with his friends.

I am from the stories my dad told with a chuckle - of working in the bush and shingling houses, the scrapbooks full of sympathy cards in my grandma’s coffee table, the dusty suitcase in the attic full of Dad’s mementos of youth, the hat box in Mom’s closet with the blue hat from her single days in the city, the Gilbert and Sullivan records, the shelves of books on the wall of mom’s sewing room, the cubby hole full of soft blankets perfect for hide and seek, the old tape recorder with the tape of Grandpa singing “A few more days shall come”, and the red mixing bowl Mom always used to mix cookies and cakes.

I am from the northern lights dancing in prairie skies, newborn calves frolicking in the field, family gathered around the table, and story time before bed. I am from home.

Few people are as stupid as I

Most people, when they know they have a dentist appointment in half an hour, stop to brush and floss their teeth.

But not me - oh no, not I. I stopped to pop a chocolate in my mouth on the way out the door.

Why? Oh, mostly absent-mindedness, I suppose. But maybe I figured if I'm gonna sit there and listen to them scold me for not flossing, I might as well have a sweet taste in my mouth to go with the bitter taste of guilt.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Some things long to be written

Call it "the muse". Call it "the writing that has a mind of its own". When you're a writer, and you know that you must write to have any kind of life or sanity at all, you satisfy the muse in any way you can. You feed it bits of yourself, and, like someone once said, occasionally you sit down at the page, open up a vein, and let the blood flow.

Sometimes there are experiences we have that we just KNOW have to be written about (or painted, or danced - whichever art the muse demands of you). Sometimes it's enough to write about it in your journal, but other times the journal is not big enough for what needs to be said.

I've been fighting with the muse lately. It's asking for more of me than I want to give. It's hard to explain, but there are pieces of me that are still well secured behind closet doors and I don't want to let them out. But there's a faint clawing at the doors of that closet lately, and I'm afraid I must open it soon.

I know this post doesn't make much sense, but I felt like writing it anyway. Sometimes it's easy to write, when you can hold the words at arm's length and pretend they are only lightly attached to who you are. Other times, it's wretchedly painful, when the words tear open your soul and reveal all the dark places you've kept hidden.

I've started writing a piece that is the hardest thing I have ever written. It's about an intensely personal and painful experience, and I have no idea if it will ever surface. For some reason, I need to write it. So far, it's called "My Trip to Crazy Town", and by that title, some of you who know me fairly intimately may know about the day the title references. It seems the muse won't let me shake the need to let this surface.

Feel free to ignore this post until I make more sense again.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Nine wheels, ten pedals, and this family is on the road!

This is our latest aquisition - Maddie's tag-along-bike. She is SO proud! When we got to church on Sunday morning, she had to show it off to anyone who would stop to look.

There's an incredible scene in American Beauty, when Ricky Fitts is showing the girl (can't remember her name) the video of a plastic bag floating in the breeze. He says, as his eyes fill with tears, "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in." That's how I felt this weekend on the numerous occasions when we went out for family bike rides. Pedalling my bike behind my husband and three daughters on a perfect spring day felt almost overwhelmingly beautiful - so beautiful I felt my heart would cave in.

It's hard to describe when you have a moment in time that feels as close to perfection as you can imagine. The sun shining, the warm Spring air, the man that you love ahead of you, Maddie saying hello to people on the sidewalk as she bounces along behind her dad, Nikki racing to try to beat her dad, Julie's earnest look on her face as she pours her heart into pedaling... it's almost more than the heart can take. We biked a couple of times to St. Vital park, watched the sun begin to set on the overflowing river, tossed breadcrumbs to the ducks on the duck pond, climbed the rocks - basically had an amazing time.

My life is full, and I am happy. May I live to see many more bike rides with my family.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Caught the bug

I know I’m a little slow on the up-take, but Gina infected me with the Indie Virus, and unless I pass it on, I’ll be stuck with this pesky bug forever.

You see, Pearsonified has started a small, casual social experiment, it's called "The Indie Virus." Here's how Pearsonified describes this experiment: The experiment, henceforth referred to as "The Indie Virus," has two goals:
1) To bring exposure to lesser known blogs (especially those outside of Technorati's top 100);
2) To explore the metrics behind a viral linking campaign launched by the 'little guys' (less popular blogs).

Part of the reason it took me this long was because I couldn’t decided whether to give the nod to the people who inhabit BOTH my blog world and my non-blog world (like ccap, ap, linda, or michele) or those whom I’ve met through blogs. Because I didn’t want to appear too biased (sorry family and friends), I chose the latter. So here are my pics…

1. Anvilcloud over at Raindrops was one of my first blog friends, so I remain loyal to him. But it also helps that he’s entertaining, interesting, funny AND a good photographer. I’m also rather fond of his wife Cuppa, who exudes warmth and comfort. (I only wish she'd post more often :-)

2. Stephanie at Creature Bug not only has one of the most beautiful sites I visit on a regular basis (she’s got a great masthead that she changes fairly regularly), she’s also one of those people that I’m POSITIVE I would click with if I met her in person. She has similar interests, similar values, and she’s an entertaining and thoughtful writer.

3. Dale at Musings from Mimico is one of the most genuine people I’ve met in blogland. He’s incredibly honest – letting you into all the parts of his world, not just the pretty bits. I love his vulnerability, his ability to enjoy simple pleasures, and his kindness. Dale is also one of the most faithful and encouraging commenters, and I love him for that.

If Gina hadn’t been the one who’d passed this to me, than she’d be on my list too, ‘cause she’s definitely one of my favourites too.

Now run along, pay them a visit, and tell them Heather sent you :-)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I found it! I found it!

Remember my rant about women's magazines? Well, it turns out 2 women in Saskatchewan read my mind, because they've started a magazine that sounds EXACTLY like the one I said I'd start. Even the title sounds refreshingly original... Cahoots.

This is what they say in their submission guidelines...

Please DO NOT send us:
Empty, regurgitated pieces about losing weight, pleasing men in bed, finding a man, makeovers, 7 steps to happiness, fashion that is priced way over anything an average woman’s income will allow…we know you know what we mean.

Sounds just about perfect, doesn't it? I read the first issue cover to cover, and they live up to their claims, and my expectations - including a beautiful piece of artwork on the front cover. :-) Colour me impressed! Now if only I could find it in airport kiosks!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My husband is SO smart

Twenty-six years ago, Marcel dropped out of school without a high school education. He thought he’d drive truck for the rest of his life.

Eleven years ago, when he realized he wanted more out of life than driving a truck forever, he went for some upgrading and got his GED (grade 12 equivalency). Around the same time, he got his first office job.

Three and a half years ago, he quit his job. Much to the surprise of everyone around him – especially his trucking buddies – he enrolled in university. It took incredible courage to do so.

Yesterday, he finished his last exam, completing enough credit hours to earn him a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science.

In a couple of months, he’ll wear a cap and gown – for the first time in his life. At the age of 41. Next year, if he gets in, he’ll start his second degree so that he can teach High School. Imagine the irony – a high school dropout becomes a high school teacher.

I couldn’t be more proud of him than I am now. Not only did he complete his first degree, he did it with pretty impressive marks too. He is so much smarter than he ever gives himself credit for. And he'll be a GREAT teacher.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Favourite Easter moments

Maddie, sitting on my lap during Good Friday Ekklesia service. Corrie says “all those who are Christians can participate in communion.” Maddie whips her head around, beams at me, and says with delight (loud enough so that Jayne sitting behind me could hear it and share the beauty of the moment), “I’M A CHRISTIAN!” I’m not sure how much she understands, but she believes, and yes, we let her take communion. I wish we all could proclaim it with such joy.

Julie, going through the stations of the cross with me, reaching down to the white paper in front of us and, with black paint on her gloved hand, writes “love”. Yes, this girl is all about love, and I think she understands that part of the Easter story. Something about seeing her write it made this mother heart swell with pride. I had to brush a tear away from my eye.

Don, singing “this is not the same, it’s another thing all together - this is love” about as well as Steve Bell does. So glad I got to hear it twice – both times it sent shivers up and down my spine. The God of beauty gave Don a voice and taught him how to use it.

Corrie, tearing off my blackened glove and saying “your sins are forgiven”. I didn’t anticipate the feeling of refreshment on my hand after the rubber glove was removed. I didn’t expect to be moved by how clean and able to breathe my hand felt. It was like the water in the centre of the labyrinth, after being covered in dust.

Nikki, giving one of her prized Tamagatchis to her sister. You have to know Nikki to know how much of a big deal it is for this girl to give away something she treasures – especially to Julie. But this weekend – maybe it was the spirit of the season, or maybe she just figured out it was more fun to play together than alone – she gave it away entirely on her own accord. There’s a little bit of Easter in that moment of graciousness.

Children – mine and others – running around hunting for colourful Easter eggs. Perhaps an egg hunt has nothing to do with the “real” Easter, but there is something about watching children run delighted through grass hunting for treasure that speaks of beauty, renewal, and hope. THAT has everything to do with Easter.

Sunshine. There was so much of it this weekend. Hours and hours of sunshine. And warmth. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the resurrection.

So many good moments this Easter weekend. I wish I could put them in a jar like little fireflies so they’d light up the night. But I suppose, just like fireflies, they’re better left floating out there in the universe to be enjoyed by all.

Easter is redemption and hope and resurrection and re-birth. Easter is love. I don’t always understand why Jesus had to die, but sometimes I’m content to live with my questions and just let the little moments of clarity be enough.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Driving home from the bookstore on Thursday night, I took the long way home because I liked what I heard on the radio. CBC radio was playing a re-run of Tapestry, and I was so moved by what I heard, I had to pull over and jot some notes in my notebook. It didn't occur to me until later how delightfully appropriate it was that I'd stopped the car next to a shadowy graveyard and a lit cathedral.

The program was an interview with Alan Jones. His book, Reimagining Christianity: Reconnect Your Spirit Without Disconnecting your Mind is now on my wish list. You can hear the interview here.

Here are a few of the things I jotted down...
- the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty
- religion doesn't answer the questions, it deepens them
- religion is meant to be uncomfortable - it will piss you off if it means anything
- "mine must have been the slowest conversion in history - I have an enormous capacity for missing the point"
- Christianity is a "way" not a "state"
- you can't opt out of belonging - if you opt out, then you belong to those others who have opted out
- the universe is made up of stories, not atoms
- imagine the beautiful irony of Jesus, who is the "word of God" but was born as a baby, unable to speak - word and silence must be part of each other

It also helps that his voice is like ear-candy. I think I could listen to it all day.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


sun settles
pink joins hands
with periwinkle blue
cotton candy sky
clouds lend canvas
to paintbrush of incandescent light
mystery unfolds soft
music in the heavens

god of beauty
do you whisper to the angels
"gather round look
at this our masterpiece"
do you brush
sadness from your eyes
when we, distracted,
close doors and
forget to bear witness

Start with an apology

Our mayor, Sam Katz, is in hot water for making idiotic, sexist statements at a ceremony meant to honour our city’s Olympic champions, who all happen to be female. He made a variety of comments, calling them “beautiful girls” and “special ladies”, but the one that tops them all off is when, standing on the stage with them, he said he felt like Hugh Hefner. Now, I don’t think I have to explain why that is completely inappropriate, patronizing, and sexist.

What really bugs me though, is the fact that Katz won’t apologize for his statements. He says that people should just “get over it”. Clearly, he hasn't tried to understand how patronizing his comments sounded. To compare gifted athletes to playboy bunnies is just… well, I hardly have the words to say how idiotic it is.

Getting back to my point though, sometimes an apology can be a powerful thing. If Katz owned up to his mistake, accepted the criticism, and made a public apology to the athletes and to all women in this city (especially those young girls in the crowd who showed up to see their athletic heroes, and had to be subjected to one more example of sexism), I suspect that most women would be much quicker to “get over it”. As it is now, there are people calling for his resignation. I guess next time you should think twice about revealing your fantasy of lounging in a bathrobe next to a pool full of buxom babes, Mr. Katz.

I read a couple of things lately that reminded me of the power of an apology. First of all, I read Don Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz. At one point, he was one of only a handful of Christians on a very secular campus. There was a big annual party planned for the campus, and that party was known for its extreme hedonism and “anything goes” atmosphere. The group of Christian students were contemplating what they should do during the party, and Don, rather jokingly, said they should put up a confessional in the middle of the campus. Much to Don’s horror, one of his friends took him seriously, and went with the idea. But he had a different twist on it – instead of taking confession from party goers, when people entered the booth the CHRISTIANS would be the ones to make confession. So they did it. When people showed up, they apologized for many of the past and current sins of Christianity – judgementalism, racism, sexism, causing wars, etc. – and they apologized for their own sins too. Wow. Powerful stuff.

Another thing I read was a piece about Tom Fox, the member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams who was executed in Iraq. Once, at a meeting of the Langley Hill Friends, Tom Fox was asked, “What do you think the U.S. should do? (about Iraq)” He was quiet for a moment and then said, “I think we should apologize.” Again – a powerful thought – the superpowers of the world apologizing to the people they’d bullied. Can you imagine George Bush walking into the home of an Iraqi peasant family who’d lost their children and their livelihood to the American invasion and said, simply, “I’m sorry”?

In a twelve step program, one of the steps is to make an account of the wrongs you’ve done, and another one is to make amends where appropriate. Without following these steps, they believe that you can’t fully overcome your compulsive, damaging behaviour. An apology is not only powerful for the person receiving it, but for the person humble enough to give it.

Apologizing can be the hardest thing in the world to do, but it can also be the most beautiful. I’m not very good at it, I confess. I spend a lot of time trying to justify my own actions rather than own up to them and apologize for them. I wish I were better, but pride gets in the way. Plus I think empty apologies can be more damaging than none, so I’m reluctant to do something unless I really mean it.

Sometimes, I’ve gotten it right, though, and most of the time, the rewards outweigh the pain. More than once, I’ve apologized to friends or family, and found that by doing so, it deepened my relationship with them, and brought us to a new place of honesty. Once I had to learn a hard lesson in apology. I was speaking in church about relationships, and I knew that I couldn’t stand up in front of people and be honest if I didn’t resolve one of the relationships in my life that had gone wrong. I made a very difficult decision to phone a friend I hadn’t spoken to in ten years and I apologized for my part in the dismantling of our relationship. I hated it, but I’m glad I did it. She said she was blown away by my call. She responded with her own apology.

I’m trying to get better at it especially in my marriage and my home. It’s especially hard to apologize to my children, but it’s probably the best example I can give them.

If only Sam Katz would recognize the power of a genuine apology, I think he’d be a better mayor. I’m afraid it’s too late though. Anything he does now will only be seen as a political back-step.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The many signs of Spring

Irises poking through the earth in my little garden
Earthworms on the sidewalk after the rain
Maddie in her alligator boots wading through puddles
Little frog jumping across my path
Bike tires on pavement
Unzipped jackets
Soccer practice
Geese flying overhead
Pork chops on the barbecue
Daughters in capri pants
Hotdog vendors on the street corner
Car windows rolled down
Waking to the sound of thunder
Lawnchairs on the front lawn
Robins under the evergreen tree
Open-toed shoes
Chorus of frogs at dusk

Aaahhh! Breathe deeply. It’s Spring!

Sometimes I dream of living in a place with warm weather 12 months of the year, but then I live through another spring, and I remember why I love to be here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Happy Birthday, bbb!

Today my Big Brother turns 45. I had no idea 45 could be so young until I got this close myself! (Yes, that's him and me in the pic. Sorry, I thought I'd done a better job of scanning it.)

He’s a cool guy, my Big Brother. Here are a few of the things I like about him:
- He is fearless. I think he’d try almost anything if he had the chance (except for a few kinds of exotic foods, perhaps).
- He is generous. He’s probably given away more money (and other stuff) than I’ve made in my life. I remember calling him in a panic when my sister and I were wandering around Europe and couldn’t access our funds and he said “why would you feel badly about asking ME for money?”
- He’s a great dad. To watch him with his kids is to see a thing of beauty.
- He is adventurous. I both envy and admire his ability to leave all earthly possessions behind and backpack around the world for a year.
- He’s smart. In our family, he’s the “go to” guy for all kinds of questions like how to fix a computer, what’s the best stereo equipment to buy – you name it.
- He’s fun. He loves to drive fast, go on adventures, seek out new places, watch movies, climb to ridiculous heights to get the best picture, throw caution to the wind – basically, he’s a bit of an experience junkie, and he likes to take along anyone who’s willing to join him.
- He’s wise. He doesn’t accept things at face value, and he dares to ask the deep questions. He’s a little like our dad in that way.

I could think of other things, but I don’t want to swell his head TOO much. :-)

You’re my hero, Big Brother. Happy Birthday!

Monday, April 10, 2006

40 days 'til 40

Seriously, do I look old enough to be turning 40?

In 40 days, I will turn 40. I thought it would freak me out. I thought it would depress me. I thought I’d feel a little panicky about being old and settled like I did when I turned 30 and had just bought our first house, given birth to our first child, and bought our first minivan. But in an odd sort of way, I welcome it. Forty sounds like a good age to be. People take you seriously when you’re forty. You’re young enough to still think youthfully, but old enough to have gained some wisdom along the way.

I feel content. I’m at a good place to be approaching a milestone like this. I’ve gotten good at a few things, had a few accomplishments along the way, learned from lots of mistakes, continued to find opportunities to be foolish and carefree, traveled to some interesting places, had some great relationships, found my soulmate and worked hard at making our marriage work, watched my children grow into interesting little people, had some interesting and challenging jobs, followed my passions, and found ways to touch people and let them touch me along the way. Don’t get me wrong - there have been lots of road bumps, some tragedies and really dark places, fear, loneliness, and more than one utter failure, but all of that has only helped the molding and shaping of me into a person I quite like to be.

One of the greatest things about getting older is that you get more comfortable in your skin - you’re more willing to learn from other people and less concerned about proving that you have stuff figured out, you know yourself better, you’ve figured out some of the things that make you happy, and you get better at discerning which risks are worth taking.

Not long ago, there was an article in the paper written by a woman who was turning thirty with much dread and resistance. She lamented the lines on her face, the grey hairs popping up, and all the other physical signs that she was not as young as she once was. Short of plastic surgery, she was doing almost everything she could to stop the aging process. The woman who wrote the story is a friend and former employee of mine. I hired her for her first “real” job, and I mentored her and had an influence in her life. I like her – quite a bit – but the article saddened me. I was sad that she hadn’t learned to embrace the aging process. I was sad that she fought what nature had in mind for her. After I saw the article, I looked in the mirror at the deepening lines in my face and decided that I would embrace them, whatever the cost. The lines in my face tell a story – they map my history. They make my face more gentle and maybe a little more wise. I don’t want a twenty-year-old face when I have a forty-year-old soul.

As I look toward the next decade of my life, I feel incredibly hopeful about the future. The little bits of wisdom I’ve picked up along the journey have helped me see the future through clearer, more interesting lenses. At thirty, the future looked a little scary and heavy. With a new mortgage, a new baby, and a fairly new marriage, I felt like I was picking up the world and placing it firmly on my shoulders. I felt so unprepared and inexperienced. I didn’t feel quite ready for the next ten years. Now, ten years later, with our second mortgage and our third child, I feel so much more experienced and more prepared for the next decade. Life gets easier with experience.

At forty, I have so much to look forward to. I look forward to having more time on my hands as my children get older and need me less. I look forward to needing less money to survive (or at least not being the sole bread-winner in the house) and being able to do more things because I’m passionate about them and fewer things because I get a pay cheque for doing them. I look forward to learning more things from interesting and creative people. I look forward to teaching more people some of the interesting things I’ve learned in my 40 years. I look forward to trying new things – like painting – I’ve always wanted to learn to paint. I look forward to watching my children figure out what their gifts are, and I look forward to letting them teach me things. I look forward to reading more, playing more, creating more, learning more, seeing more, doing more, teaching more, eating more, loving more, and understanding more.

To help me bring on this hopeful future, I’ve decided that, for the next forty days, I will go on a bit of a personal pilgrimage. You could call it a belated lent season, I suppose. To be more prepared for all the “mores” I have ahead of me, I want to spend a little time making sure I’m healthy enough, both physically and spiritually, to get the most out of them. Here’s what I plan to do:

1. Spend at least 15 minutes a day doing something for my physical health. Mostly, it will probably be walking or biking (this morning was a good start!), but I think I might try a few new things. I’m thinking of signing up for yoga. Sometimes I’ll do things with the kids – like swimming on a Saturday afternoon. In the meantime, I’ll try to eat less compulsively and more mindfully (I’m still waiting for the book I ordered – Eating Mindfully).

2. Spend at least 15 minutes a day doing something for my spiritual health. I want to read the Bible more, pick up some good books that inspire me, pray, meditate, listen to spiritual teachings, etc. If possible, I’d like to walk the labyrinth again. I’ve been doing a little reading on mindfulness and meditation, and I want to make it more a part of my life.

3. Spend at least 15 minutes a day refreshing my creative spirit. I’m dusting off my copy of The Artist’s Way, and picking up the follow-up piece, Walking in this World that I bought a few years ago but never got around to reading. I’ll try to do some morning pages, maybe go on some “artist’s dates”, listen to good music, write some poetry, and try my hand at some new forms of creativity (like maybe some collages – something my daughters will probably enjoy participating in too).

4. Take a day (or at least a portion of a day) for a personal retreat. I’ve done this before and it’s a wonderful way to regroup and refresh. I may head out to St. Benedict’s again, or find another worshipful/peaceful place to spend a day.

I’ll be gentle on myself along the way. I won’t be too strict – sometimes the above activities will be combined (like a meditative walk through an art gallery, perhaps), and mostly I’ll forgive myself if I slip up. I’ll be gentle on my family too – I’ll look for opportunities to include them on the pilgrimage. And at the end of the 40 days, I may or may not continue – for now I only commit to the 40 days.

When I turn forty, forty days from now, I plan to indulge myself in something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I want to jump out of a plane – with a parachute attached, that is. I figure that will be a fitting way to round out my 40 day pilgrimage. Hopefully, it will be an energized, invigorated me jumping out of that plane and drifting down to earth. Whatever the case, at least I’ll have one more thing to add to the “great moments in my life” list when I turn 50.

(By the way, if anyone wants to join me for the jump, either to watch or participate, let me know!)

Slow and steady wins the race

I made it to work this morning. On my bike. And I'm still alive! My legs feel like they've been replaced by tubes of jell-o, and I kept company with Mr. Turtle along the way (at least I didn't stop to flirt with pretty rabbits, like Mr. Hare), but I made it. Another summer of biking has begun. Yay!

Oh - and I saw a FROG! It really IS Spring!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dandelions and sheep

It’s not a picture that would stop you in your tracks if it were hanging in a gallery. In fact, you’d pass by and probably wonder if you could get your money back for this exhibit. No, it’s not exhibit-worthy or even frame-worthy. If you had taken it, in fact, it might be one of the pictures you’d cull rather than place in your photo album.

It’s a completely ordinary picture, but it’s hanging on my office wall in a place of honour – right next to my computer where I can see it while I work. It’s a picture of a patch of sunny yellow dandelions, growing near a wall. In the bottom corner of the picture is a shadow – clearly the shadow of the person who leaned over to take the picture.

Why is this picture on my wall? Let me explain.

Two and a half years ago, my Dad was killed in a farm accident. His death tore a huge hole in my life, and left me reeling from the pain. It’s true that “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” My Dad had always been a constant in my life – a source of wisdom, humour, stability, and inspiration - but I didn’t fully recognize any of this until death snatched him away.

When we were cleaning out the farm house, in preparation for the sale of the farm and mom’s move to the city, we found something that Dad had left behind – a camera. It was an inexpensive disposable camera and the film inside was full of the last pictures Dad had taken before he died. At the time, it seemed almost too much to cope with, so we set it aside and nearly forgot about it. My sister held onto it, always with the intention that she would eventually develop the pictures and share them with the rest of the family. I don’t believe my brothers even knew it existed.

A few months ago, more than 2 years after Dad died, I got an e-mail from my sister. She’d developed the pictures and scanned them. They were all attached to the e-mail. I sat there staring at my computer screen, knowing that I was about to open Dad’s last gift to us, his family. At the same time, I was a little afraid to raise my expectations – the pictures might prove disappointing.

I didn’t open them right away. I had to give myself time to process and prepare. I waited until my children were in bed and I was alone at the computer. I knew the emotions would overwhelm me.

When the first image opened, I breathed in sharply. The now familiar pain of memory poured over on me. It was almost more than I could bear – seeing Dad’s world through his own eyes. The tears began to flow as I clicked slowly from picture to picture.

If ever there was a sacred moment, this was it. It was almost mystical how much those pictures revealed the man we’d lost. Every picture told a little story about his life – what was important to him, where he found beauty, what inspired him, and where he spent many hours of his days.

All of the pictures were taken on the farm, a place he loved to be like no other place on earth. Every picture tells of his love of creation and his respect for the earth. The range of pictures spans a whole year – showing a view from every season. There are growing gardens, flowering trees, sheep, geese flying over the water – these are all things that my dad loved with almost a child-like enthusiasm. I remember times when he’d drag me across the yard, just to see a new bud poking through the earth or a new calf taking its first step. I remember the calendar entries in the Spring – “first sign of geese”, “frogs croaking.” This was a man who knew how to enjoy the beauty and surprises in creation.

Some of the pictures are of people he loved. One picture shows Mom with her bicycle, one of her favourite possessions. Another one shows two of my daughters in the garden. In one winter picture, I’m standing beneath a tree, peering into the branches at someone I believe is my nephew.

A few of the pictures must have been taken by mom, because Dad is in them. My second favourite picture (also hanging on my wall) portrays him carrying a yellow bucket, amidst a herd of sheep. Dad loved sheep. He owned them just because they fascinated him so much. He particularly liked the imagery in the Bible where followers of Jesus are compared to sheep with a shepherd. In Dad’s sheep pasture, near the highway, was a sign that read “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.”

That brings us back to the dandelion picture. What makes this one special? Well, just like sheep, Dad had a special love affair with dandelions. He thought they were among the most underappreciated gifts of God’s creation. He believed that not enough people stopped to look at dandelions – to really appreciate them.

Now you can understand why a picture that shows a shadow of Dad leaning over to take a picture of dandelions is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received in my life. And the gift goes far beyond the picture. The real gift is having had the privilege to be raised by a man who taught me how to marvel at little things like dandelions, to see God’s hand in everything, and to let even those things that others call weeds teach me something valuable.

Here, for your reverent viewing pleasure, are my favourite pictures. The next time you see a dandelion, think of my Dad, and breathe a little prayer of thanks. (Cuppa, I still remember the tribute you did last year - I was so touched!)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fun things happening

I’ve got a bit of a buzz going today, ‘cause there have been lots of fun surprises lately. Sometimes in life it just feels like a door opens up and the world starts throwing little gifts through it. I’ve been on the receiving end of that door lately. All of them are fun and most of them are exciting because they may open up even more doors. Here are a few of them:

1. I got my advance copies of Geez Magazine today – dropped off by the editor himself. On page 87 of this fun and irreverent magazine (whose subtitle is “holy mischief in an age of fast faith”) is an article by yours truly! Here I am doing that dance again!

2. Yesterday I had a very cool lunch with Steve Bell, who’s an awesome singer-songwriter (who also happens to be a Juno winner – that’s the Canadian equivalent of the Grammies). It looks like Steve and I will probably work on a music video project together. What fun! Steve is a really amazing person to talk to – full of passion and ideas and lots of deep thoughts.

3.Steve put me in touch with another guy, an editor of another magazine who’s working on building a community/network of people involved in arts/faith/creativity – something I’ve been longing to be involved in for awhile. After lunch, I e-mailed him, and we’re getting together for lunch next week! More fun!

4. When I got back from lunch with Steve, I got an e-mail from my old friend Ian Ross (also known as Joe from Winnipeg). Ian and I used to write and produce plays together back in the day. Since then, he’s gone and gotten himself famous (won the Governor General’s award for playwriting – the highest award you can get in this country) and we’ve lost touch. I ran into him last year, and now we’re finally getting back in touch. I think we’ll do lunch soon.

5. Earlier this week, I also had lunch with a very cool writer, and one of my best friends – Michele. Michele is busy writing her second text book. I only wish text books had been written by cool people like Michele back when I was a student.

So you see I’m on a bit of an artsy/creative buzz after all these serendipitous pieces started falling into my lap. (It also sounds like I’m doing a little name-dropping, but I really DO know all these cool people!) I love it when I get to hang out with people who inspire me and make me want to be more creative. All of the above moments had that affect on me.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Monday, April 03, 2006

Forty great moments in my life

1. para-sailing in Mexico
2. seeing my babies for the first time (I guess that’s technically 3 great moments, but who’s counting?)
3. learning to do a 360 on a kneeboard (pulled behind a boat)
4. hiking to the top of Sulfur Mountain
5. taking the incline railway up to the misty top of the mountain in Interlachen, Switzerland and hiking back down
6. sleeping in a tent on a farm in Kenya
7. hiking to the ocean in Washington State and watching my dad carve his name on the boardwalk (and carry home some rope washed up on the shore)
8. sneaking into Green Gables on Prince Edward Island
9. taking a boat out onto a very deep lake in Montana on our honeymoon
10. boarding my first flight on a family trip to Edmonton
11. saying “I do”
12. riding the tram-car in San Fransisco and shouting “Oh no, not the bunny cuffs!” to the street performer (along with other members of my somewhat crazy family)
13. watching my brother Dwight eat a six-inch high canned-meat sandwich somewhere in a park in B.C.
14. riding the ferry from England to Belgium and meeting up with my sister, ccap, at the ferry station
15. sitting on the beach at White Lake watching my children play
16. eating at the Russian Tea Room in New York City
17. sitting on the side of Norquay Mountain watching the meteorite shower with my husband
18. watching my brothers and husband jump off the waterfall at Rainbow Falls
19. eating crepes in Quebec City (I won’t mention the OTHER things we did in Quebec City, but suffice it to say, it was a very romantic weekend!)
20. seeing elephants and zebras and giraffes and lions in the Serengetti
21. backpacking in Banff with my sister-in-law
22. watching fireworks at Ile des Chenes
23. eating watermelon with extended family near the playhouse at Mom and Dad’s farm
24. sleeping on the deck of a ship on the Mediterranean
25. riding horses with my brother and closest childhood friend, Julie
26. laughing about magic soap on a snowy trip to Denver
27. sitting around the campfire at Carberry Bible Camp
28. a cooking class and a bottle of wine with Linda, Michele, and ccap
29. seeing my name in print the first time I got published (and every time since)
30. our first weekend in the camper, at Hecla Island, when we told family members we were expecting Maddie
31. sitting on a quiet beach at Korfu, Greece after everyone else had gone home for the day
32. eating butter chicken and listening to good music at the Folk Festival (again, multiple moments, but I can’t pick one particular favourite)
33. sleeping on the rocks on an island in Lake of the Woods (until it started to rain)
34. riding a glass elevator up the CN Tower while on a high school band trip
35. riding down into the Royal Gorge in the snow
36. hearing the word “mommy” for the first time
37. stepping across the finish-line of a 20 mile walk-a-thon when I was six years old
38. watching my dad win the stooking contest at Austin Thresherman’s Reunion
39. going to the Sarah McLachlan concert with ccap
40. sleeping next to an open window in a hostel in Venice, with the sounds of party boats floating down the canal

Ah, it’s been a good life so far!

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Today I returned the cradle. Ed's cradle. The one he lent me when Nikki was about to be born. "I want it back," he said, "when I have grandchildren."

Today I returned it to his widow. There is no Ed there now. There are no grandchildren to rock in that cradle. There may be grandchildren some day, but Ed won't be there to hold them.

The house was quiet. Ed's house, without Ed. His wife looked empty. Holding up, as best she can, but empty. They were supposed to have a long life together. They were supposed to spoil their grandchildren together.

I feel this sadness I can hardly name. For Diana, for their sons, for the grandchildren that will never know Ed.

He used to call me Heather-bell. He would have been a good grandpa.

There are so many things in life that don't make sense.