Friday, November 30, 2007

All points bulletin

Joe Banana is missing!

If anyone should see a small, friendly, furry little monkey wandering past your home, looking a little lost, PLEASE let me know. There's a sad little five-year-old girl in our home, who's having trouble falling asleep at night without her buddy.

And if he isn't found... well, then the present the older sisters bought for the five-year-old for Christmas just won't be of any use.

Here's a picture of Joe in happier times, before he wandered off to places unknown. I'm getting a little choked up just looking at his smiling face. (Okay, I AM pathetic - I'm feeling all sad for a lost stuffed monkey.)

Maddie and Joe on the boardwalk in Duluth
Oh Joe, where did you go?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

(Because if Krista can do it, I can too.)

1. I was running out at lunch time to meet with someone, and on my way there, a blind man with a white cane asked “is this Graham Street”? “Close,” I said. “Just another 20 feet and you’re there.” I turned away, but he called out, “where is the bus stop?” “Well, there isn’t one on this block, you’ll have to go to the next block.” “Have I crossed Graham yet?” By this time I realized he was quite disoriented and I hoped he wouldn’t get hit by a bus. “No, you still have to cross Graham.” “Am I at the corner where I can cross?” “No, not exactly.” Giving up my effort to get to my meeting on time, I asked “do you want me to lead you to the bus stop?” “Yes,” was his simple reply. And so I lead him, helping him to avoid the places where ice and snow have already accumulated. And yes, I’m glad I was willing to be late for the meeting – it was worth it.

2. Don’t worry – not every item on this list will be as long as the last one.

3. Yesterday I fasted for End Hunger Fast. Leaders (and others) in churches across Canada fasted too. It felt like a nice way to be connected to people across the country – through the common grumbling of our tummies. (It was also kind of fun to know that an idea that was birthed in my little ol’ brain while I was brushing my teeth inspired people all across the country to give up food for a day.)

4. Speaking of ideas, I came up with another great idea to put together a quilt to present to our government as a way of communicating our concern that farmers in Africa are “taking the heat” when it comes to climate change. We hadn’t gathered enough quilt squares from people, and we’re running out of time (before the big Bali conference on Climate Change), so I thought it wouldn’t materialize. But now a bunch of university students have decided to run with it and I couldn’t be more happy.

5. I’m tired. It seems to be a constant state these days. No, I am NOT pregnant.

6. Speaking of being pregnant, I love ultrasounds, and I’m glad Krista shared hers. When I was in the hospital with Matthew, I had at least 15 of them (twice a day for at least 20 minutes each time), so I got pretty good at reading them.

7. Nikki had her second practice with the indoor developmental soccer team yesterday. Afterwards, one of the coaches said to her, with a smile of encouragement, “Good work Nicole. You’ve got speed, girl. And if you keep kicking like that, we’ll have to get a bigger damage deposit.” I think she grinned all the way home. It's true, I wouldn't recommend standing in front of her when she's kicking a ball. And I would NEVER challenge her to a race. Bravo to the coach for encouraging the new girl.

8. I cleaned up all the piles in my office last week AND I got to the bottom of my in box. Woohoo!!

9. I don’t know if I’ll make it to thirteen. I’m floundering.

10. Even my boss told me I’m looking tired these days. He’s not the most perceptive person around, so it must be serious. I think I need a two week vacation in a warm place.

11. Yesterday, for our day of fasting, I organized a little contemplative “worship” thing for our staff. It was quite lovely. I spoke about justice, mercy, and compassion (read Isaiah 58 for inspiration) and everyone was invited to light a candle (to symbolize their acceptance of a call to do justice), take a sip of water (the call to be merciful), and hold a handful of split peas (compassion). Some people took the burning candles back to their desks. I felt all warm and fuzzy (though a little hungry) for the rest of the afternoon, with a candle burning on my desk.

12. It’s hard to feel warm and fuzzy these days. It’s frickin’ cold outside. I’m not ready for winter.

13. We’re planning a very delightful pre-Christmas surprise for our girls (well, it’s for us too, but we won’t be surprised). I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Action Sandwich?

I stopped at the mall last night to pick up some pictures, and on my way through Chapters Bookstore, I heard some familiar music playing and decided to investigate. Alan Frew from Glass Tiger was doing an old familiar tune, and because I was once a bit of a Glass Tiger fan (I saw them perform live back in the early 90s), I hung around a bit to try to figure out why Alan Frew was in a bookstore.

Turns out he's written a book. "The Action Sandwich - a six-step recipe to success by doing exactly what you're already doing." Huh - isn't that handy - I can do EXACTLY what I'm already doing and end up successful?

I haven't read the book, so I suppose I have no right to be judgmental, but I just can't help myself. Does the world really NEED another self-help/motivational book about six easy steps to success? Especially one from a rock star?

I enjoyed this quote from an Amazon review of the book... "During a reminiscence of meeting and singing with Rod Stewart, Frew states "Who'd believe it?" and goes on to declare, "The Action Sandwich would!", referring to the action sandwich as a person." Hmmm... gotta get me one o' those ACTION SANDWICHES! Maybe I can sing with Rod Stewart! Or not.

If you've picked up one of these books for me for Christmas, better ask for your money back.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Three unrelated things about the weekend

1. Saturday night after dinner, we were sitting in our living room when we saw a limo pull up in front of our house. We weren't expecting any celebrity guests, so naturally our curiousity was piqued. Out of the limo stepped these three young men with their very special cargo. Sadly, that is not the Grey Cup - nope, that will be heading to Saskatchewan tonight. Instead, it's the Vanier Cup. Our University of Manitoba Bisons won it on Friday. One of these fellows is our neighbour. They were looking pretty beat, but still quite happy to pose for just one more picture.
2. On another note, today I had a speaking engagement at a seniors' home in Steinbach. Given that my family roots are in the vicinity of that very Mennonite part of the province, I knew I would be subjected to the "Mennonite game" wherein nearly everyone in the room would try to figure out who my parents and grandparents were and which of the people in the room I was related to. (I didn't grow up in that area, but both of my parents did.) Sure enough, I was not disappointed. What I didn't expect though, was the woman who pulled me over to tell me, with a bit of a giggle, that she'd once dated my dad, back in the day. He'd taken her for a drive in the country and had tried to teach her to drive. At one point, they'd come upon a herd of pigs, and she'd become flustered and had just taken her hands and feet off of everything. I guess that was the end of the driving lesson.

3. Speaking of my dad... when we were growing up, Sunday was a sacred day. Other than preparing meals, washing the dishes, and making sure the farm animals got fed, there was no work done on the farm. Even if it was beautiful weather in the middle of the harvest, my father refused to break the sabbath. Back then, I thought of him as a little legalistic. Now I'm starting to think he was on to something. We have slowly let ourselves step away from "remembering the sabbath and keeping it holy," and it has become just another day to get the laundry done, go grocery shopping, you name it. Today, after I got back from Steinbach, I took a nap and allowed myself to be lazy for most of the day. It was good. I think I need more sabbath-keeping.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Moving too fast

I have another whirlwind business trip coming up in a couple of weeks. To Montreal and Toronto again. Two cities in two days. Two sets of meetings in two different corporate boardrooms with two very different audiences in two cities in two provinces in two days. Too much.

The only thing I'm looking forward to? A train ride from Montreal to Toronto.

How can you tell your life is moving too fast? When the thought of 4 or 5 hours of uninterrupted daydreaming, reading, staring out the window and contemplating the meaning of life gives me no end of delight.

I love trains.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Losing their way

1. She was cute and cheerful with sparkly eyes and a cherubic face. Before I had children, I used to play with her and her sister at the annual Christmas party where we'd decorate cookies and hang them on the giant Christmas tree. This week, I heard that she's been caught in the schoolyard of the high school she graduated from - selling drugs to students. It seems she's lost her way.

2. I remember when he was born. We held him and cooed over him. Marcel and I were dating at the time, and it was the first time I realized my husband-to-be was baby-crazy. He didn't want to put the baby done. A few days ago, we found out that that baby has grown into a high school student who's belligerent and disrespectful and was caught stealing when his class volunteered at the local food bank. "If the poor people can have that stuff, why can't I?" He's losing his way.

3. She was beautiful and gifted and seemed so highly capable when she started working with me, several years ago. The future ahead looked bright and should have been. Today I heard that she's carrying a sadness with her, and has become so self-limiting her potential seems wasted and almost dried up. Is she losing her way?

4. Two little girls with friendly smiles and nervous giggles. They've been to our birthday parties and played in our backyard. Both of them seemed fearless and bold and full of spunk. One of them could shimmy up the monkey bars and walk across the top like a tight-rope walker when she was still too tiny to go to school. The other one came with us to Ballet in the Park and would wander off into the crowd like she was afraid of no-one. Now they're ten years old and looking for love in all the wrong places. Getting their eyebrows waxed, dressing like show-girls and bragging about kissing boys. Both had mothers whose pregnancies cut short their youth. Will they lose their way?

I have no conclusion for this post. No wise words or happy endings. Just a bit of sadness for the stories of people who've been in my life at some point and have since faltered along the path.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The legacy continues

Alternate title: Since I'm bragging about my kids anyway...

Many, many years ago, when I was about 5 or 6 (or I might have been a bit older, I don't remember - perhaps my sibling-with-the-amazing-memory can help me out?), I walked 22 miles to become the youngest person in our community to complete the walk-a-thon.

Yesterday, Julie did me proud. She climbed 29 flights of stairs for Conquer the Globe: StairClimb for Clean Air 2007 and was awarded the "Youngest Achiever Award". She came home quite proudly waving her new MP3 player award in the air. Yay Julie!

She completed the climb in 7 minutes and 47 seconds. I think I would have only made it up about 4 flights of stairs (huffing and puffing) in 7 minutes. Nikki made it in 5 minutes and 47 seconds. (She was the second-youngest achiever, but there was no award for that.)

I better start getting into shape, because next year they're determined I do it with them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Last Spring, Nikki suffered a major disappointment when she didn't get selected to play on the developmental level soccer team. Several of her friends got chosen (or at least got chosen to serve as back-up - kind of like the 'farm team'). If you saw Nikki play, you'd realize that it was clearly an oversight. No, I'm not just being a biased Mom - all the other parents who watch her were as incredulous as we were.

Nikki is passionate about soccer. P.A.S.S.I.O.N.A.T.E. Even though she could only play at the recreational league level, she poured her heart and soul into it every chance she got. All through the spring and summer, she worked extra hard, determined to improve her skills so she'd be selected next year. She went to a soccer camp in the summer, and her skills got even better.

This year, for the first time, both her and Julie are playing indoor soccer. (They wanted to last year, but our budget was a little tight.) Nikki started the season with a bang - scoring the first goal for her team - and has been knockin' em dead ever since (highest goal-scorer so far). She is a force to be reckoned with. (I really love watching her. There's this little skip-step that she does just before she kicks it into full throttle. It's a thing of beauty.)

And yesterday it paid off. We weren't aware of it, but there was a coach from the developmental team watching her game, looking for a possible back-up player for their team. After the game (in which Nikki scored 2 out of the team's 3 goals), he pulled Nikki's coach aside, and then he pulled Nikki aside. They want her to come out for practices and be available to play whenever one of their players can't make it. (She was the only one from her team selected.)

She's not a full-fledged member of the team (yet), but it's a start. And it sure is good to see that smile on her face.

Friday, November 16, 2007

C'mon people, have you learned NOTHING?!

Two years ago, I wrote a post about all the things you should NOT do if you're applying for a job (at least if you're applying for a job where I'll be your manager). I just finished reading through 57 resumés, and I hate to tell you, at least half of those people did NOT BOTHER TO READ my very helpful post. C'mon people!

Telling me that you were "led by the Spirit" to apply for the job is not going to guarantee that I am "led by the Spirit" to hire you! And including a picture on your resumé? Unless you're applying for a job at Moxies or Hooters, I can't imagine when it would EVER be advisable to add the picture. And if you ever think that six pages of fine print wherein you brag non-stop about how wonderful you are is going to be read with delight - guess again. 57 resumes is a LOT of reading to do, and you've just guaranteed yours will be barely skimmed through.

Just one other thing... don't EVER, under any circumstances, include phrases such as "do you really want to pass up the opportunity to meet with me?" Or "Look no further!" Or "I am confident you've found the right person in me." Let me be the judge of that!

Monday, November 12, 2007

My sister

There have been lots of cheesy things said about sisters - in Hallmark and Blue Mountain Art cards and plaques and all manner of cheap token gifts. I'd never buy one of those for my sister - not because I don't like her, but because we share a disdain for schmaltzy, overly sentimental clap trap.

This is my own version of "why I like my sister":

She is the best traveling companion EVER. We have the same interests, we skip the same overly-popular tourist traps in favour of out-of-the-way local flair, we seek out similar versions of "beauty", and we like to make fun of OTHER tourists. (In fact, I'm a little jealous of her friends and husband lately, because they've had more chances to travel with her than me and that sucks.)

She has been an incredible presence in the lives of my daughters from the day they were born. She spoils them, she encourages them, she treats them with great respect, she honours their individuality, and most of all she loves them.

She is sarcastic and opinionated - in an endearing kind of way. If she feels strongly about something, she doesn't mind voicing her opinion, but she's equally open to hearing other people's opinions. She loves a good argument, and it was one of the things our dad admired most about her.

She is way more organized and dependable than me. But she doesn't rub it in my face or get really annoyed when I forget about something or my disorganization gets in the way of success.

She can throw a party like few people I know. I am in awe of her hosting skills. She doesn't want to be the centre of attention, but when you see her in action at a party she's hosting, it is a thing of beauty.

She lets herself be vulnerable with people she cares about deeply and who have gained her trust. If you happen to be lucky enough to be within her circle of trust, you will be deeply rewarded. She'll admit her weakness and trust you to handle them tenderly and with respect. She will treat your weaknesses the same way she hopes you'll treat hers.

She knows me better than almost anyone in the world. There are times when we are in a room full of people, and we hear a comment made, we just need to glance at each other across the room and we can communicate our response to the comment without anyone else in the room knowing what's passing between us.

She knows my hurts. She's the first person I tell when I get those familiar pangs of missing dad or I have to deal with some of the transitions our family has been through, because I know that she will respond with the kind of compassion that only someone with the same hurts can respond.

She loves Folk Festival as much as I do and even went as far as arranging her wedding around it. I love her for that.

If she believes in something, she commits herself wholeheartedly. She has been part of the most incredible Children's ministry team at our church for a long time and she has poured a whole lot of herself into caring for, teaching, and encouraging our children. Many, many children have been blessed by her.

She doesn't like cell phones any more than I do.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


More than 60 percent of young women in high school express dissatisfaction with their bodies.

In college, it's 80 percent.

The obsession with weight starts early - 42 percent of girls in first to third grade express a desire to be thinner.

According to published research, 15 percent of women would sacrifice more than five years of their life to obtain the weight they desire. (REALLY? Yikes!)

There are at least eight million sufferers of life-threatening anorexia nervosa (reported in girls as young as eight years old), bulimia, and other associated eating disorders in America; 90 percent of these are women.

Since 1992, elective cosmetic procedures have risen a dramatic 198 percent.

Between 1990 and 1999 the number of facelifts in the US increased sixfold.

The diet industry has grown to a $40-billion-a-year business.

Popular women's magazines contain 10 times more diet-promoting articles and advertisements than comparable men's magazines. One out of every 3.8 advertisements sends some sort of message encouraging women to acquire a body that is "barely there".

Somebody PLEASE tell me how we're supposed to raise healthy daughters in this culture?!!?

(Information source: "Eve's Revenge: Women and a Spirituality of the Body")

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

On birth and busy-ness

There have not been alot of words making their way onto my blog lately. The reasons are both simple and complicated. The simple reason is that I'm still crazy busy these days. Most of the busy-ness is work-related, but there have been other things. Like facilitating another leadership workshop, making Halloween costumes, dealing with indoor soccer schedules, and then all those other things that show up unexpectedly. Throw in a little business travel, and I'm just about maxed out.

The complicated reasons aren't so easy to explain. Maybe one of these days I'll come on here and explain a little more about what's going on, but for now let's just say it's a bit of a personal spiritual journey, combined with the birthing of a new creative "baby".

This figurative birthing process has made me reminisce about my literal birthing experiences - the three that resulted in my beautiful daughters, and the one that resulted in my beautiful, though lifeless, son. The memory that's been with me today is that of my coming into motherhood experience.

Nikki had a really difficult entry into this world. I still find myself - nearly a dozen years later - getting a little emotional when I remember the intensity, pain, frustration, worry, seamingly endless agony, and yet ultimate joy of that experience (and a whole lot of emotions in between). It started out with me being induced because a fetal assessment showed (rather incorrectly) that she was a little on the small side and that my fluids were getting low (a week after she was due). Inducement led to hours of waiting for something to happen, followed by nearly 36 hours of labour (there's the "endless" part), three hours of heavy duty pushing, followed by an urgent call to the only obstetrician in the city who could do the necessary procedure to to deliver her without a c-section, lots of tearing and stitches, and then finding out that she had to be rushed away from me to be treated with antibiotics because there was a risk of infection.

When she was finally born, after all those hours of pushing, I had gone almost completely (though thankfully temporarily) blind. It turns out the agony of pushing for that long can mess up the muscles around your eyes so badly your vision gets messed up. They put my baby on my chest, but I had to rely on Marcel's description of her and the touch of my fingers to know anything about how she looked.

Not long afterwards, she was whisked away, and because it was late and we all needed rest, I was returned to my room and Marcel and my mom left the hospital.

The memory that has been clinging to me today has been not so much about the delivery but about what happened later that night. I awoke in the middle of the night and was suddenly filled with the most intense body-aching loneliness I had ever felt. My family had gone, and the baby that had moved in my womb for the last nine months was way down the hall behind nursery room glass. I'd given birth to her, gone through nearly unbearable pain to introduce her to the world, but I didn't even know what she looked like.

My eyesight had returned and I knew I HAD to see her. I knew it with the deepest longing imaginable. But I was in so much pain, I couldn't even figure out how to shuffle my body up in the bed in order to reach the call button to get the nurse.

But there is little that can get in the way of a mother who needs to see her child. I struggled for what seemed like an eternity, but I somehow managed to get my body up off the bed and down the hall. The nurses looked up in amazement as I passed them and entered the nursery. I'm sure there was a rather desparate look in my bloodshot eyes.

I found my baby. And I wept at her loveliness. She looked so tiny and vulnerable, hooked up to all kinds of wires and hoses, lying nearly naked in an incubator. Truly, she was not a beautiful baby - after what she went through to get into the world, it's hardly surprising - but she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

I reached out and touched her skin and knew that I had fallen completely and irreversibly in love.

I'm not sure why this is on my mind today, but I'm sure it has something to do with this creative birthing process. Some of it is painful, and it's possible that what comes of it may never "live", but at this point, I have to believe it will be beautiful.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This is the best I've got

Because life seems to be overwhelming me a bit these days, and because Maddie had a wee tiny (yeah right!) meltdown when it was time to dress up for Halloween, I didn't manage to take any pictures last night. Instead, I "stole" one from my sister, so I can at least show off the cuteness of the two monkey cousins. (And this is your opportunity to ooh and aah about the monkey costume I made for Nikki. Don't look too closely at the ears, though.)