Saturday, April 28, 2007
There may be a quarter inch layer of dust on every surface in my house
And I may not have gotten the back yard raked
But at least my fridge is clean.
There may be dried toothpaste on my bathroom counter
The ring around my bathtub may be bigger than Saturn's
And there may be little fingerprints on the walls all the way down the hallway
But at least there are no longer apples rotting in my crisper.
The kitchen floor may have more food particles on it than it did two hours ago before I swept it
The windows may be so dirty I can barely see the streetlights
And my dining room table may be cluttered with discarded papers
But at least there are no more unrecognizable green fuzzy substances in Tupperware containers at the back of my fridge
There may be 2 baskets full of rifled-through clean clothing and a mountain of dirty clothing in my laundry room
The leaves on my plants may look grey instead of green because of the dust
And my bedroom floor may be nearly obliterated under scattered clothes, books, and other assorted things
But at least there is no more spilled soya sauce dripping down the back of my fridge.
Sometimes you just need to lower your standards.
Friday, April 27, 2007
We're starting a new campaign at work, and it's primarily centred around the idea of fasting. We want to invite people to engage in the work of ending hunger by considering different kinds of fasts. This quote from Isaiah 58 is our inspiration:
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”According to Walter Brueggemann, fasting is " ... the disciplined withdrawal and regular retreat, in order to break the familiar linkages and dependencies and loyalties."
Some of the ideas so far are:
Fast from Food - giving up a meal once a week, or giving up a portion of a meal (like meat)
Fast from Over-consumption - for a week a month buy nothing but absolute necessities
Fast from Faceless Food - buy only things that are locally grown or fairly traded
Fast from Speed - parking your car and walking once a week (yeah, I know this seems like more of an environmental issue, but climate change is having a huge impact on hunger, so it's all related)
Fast from Silence - speak out about hunger, write letters to people in power, etc.
It's a way of getting people to consider what they can do or what they can live without in order to bring more balance to the world. It is largely symbolic, because deep down we know that giving up a few meals does not directly impact the person with no food in Ethiopia (hence my question about solidarity in the last post), but I think that if more people in North America at least begin to think about their over-consumption and waste we might get somewhere. (Did you know, for example, that if everyone consumed as much as North Americans do, it would take 4 to 7 earths to sustain us all?)
I've already written several drafts for the material we're producing for this (brochures, website, etc.), but now I want to write a longer background piece about why people should fast, what the benefits are, what might be accomplished, etc. That's where you, my friendly blog readers can help. If this is something you're interested in, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Write whatever you want, or respond to these questions:
1. Have you ever fasted before? If so, what was your experience with it? Was it a positive experience? Did anything change as a result?
2. If you've fasted before, what influenced you to do so? Biblical text? Advice from a friend? Something you read?
3. Do you think "fasting" is a familiar language to people? In what context - religious or health-related?
4. I've mostly heard of it in a religious context, but I'd be interested in hearing from people who live mostly outside of organized religion - is it a concept you understand at least partly? Are you comfortable with it?
5. What would you consider fasting from to participate in the work of ending hunger?
Thanks! Even if you're largely unfamiliar with fasting, I'd still welcome your comments.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
2. How do we as parents guard against this kind of icky materialism? What do I do with an eleven year old who BEGS to go to the mall because all of her friends LOVE shopping and most of them have much more money than she does?
3. Is it really necessary for my kids to practice a lock-down at school? Does a handful of shootings in the last few years REALLY warrant that kind of paranoia? Or am I just being a naive parent?
4. How can a person POSSIBLY keep her house clean when it's Springtime outside?
5. Why is there so much disposable stuff in our culture? What will it take to wake us up and start insisting that manufacturers make stuff to last so our landfill sites don't choke out the earth?
6. Where can I sign up for the Yann Martel book club? Will Stephen Harper really read those books? Perhaps at least the brilliantly written letters?
7. Is it better to push my girls to continue piano lessons under duress or let them quit when they want to?
8. What's another word for solidarity that doesn't have the same political baggage? (This is a serious question - I need it for an ad campaign at work)
9. When will my children realize that begging for things the minute I walk in the door does not usually make me want to grant their requests?
10. Why do I feel like eating ALL the time?
11. Why oh WHY did I let Marcel sign me up as a volunteer soccer coach for the Tiny Tots? Have I lost my mind?
12. When will I get a chance to take another pottery class? Or an art class? Or join a writers' group again?
13. Why am I blogging when it is beautiful outside and I should be hanging out with my children?
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I've already found SO many uses for this... um... lovely scarf. The head-dress, the shawl, the babushka... those are just the beginning!
It also serves well as a sun-shade, a mirror accent, clothing for my naked giraffe, a lampshade to set the mood...
Maddie rounded the corner while I was taking the head-dress photo and said "What the....!" Her unfinished sentence spoke volumes. But then, she couldn't resist getting in on the fun, and she discovered several other uses. A skirt (otherwise known as something to hide her ever-present butt-crack), a baby-carrier for Joe the monkey, and long hair when she's playing dress-up.
Some other reactions in my household...
Julie picked it up gingerly, like it was a dead animal carcass, and gave it a sneer and then looked at me like I'd lost my mind.
Marcel picked it up, wrapped it around himself and asked, "Is it... um... something sexual?"
Monday, April 23, 2007
and some of this...
I went thrift-store shopping for some of this...
and picked up a Spring wardrobe of nearly new clothes (3 shirts, 3 skirts, and one pair of pants) for what I would have paid for any one of those things new. About $30 for all of it! Yay! (Oh - and for those who asked - that's the second-hand couch my kids declared as ugly, but I'm rather fond of. It's growing on them.)
When I can spend time with my kids and some of my closest friends, and THEN replenish my wardrobe in about an hour for so little money, I DEFINITELY feel lucky.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
I missed portfolio night at school on Tuesday because I had work commitments. Last night, Nikki went through her portfolio with me. Under "Books I've read on my own recently", she had "Hanna's suitcase, Hitler's Childhood, Biography of Ghandi, Biography of Princess Diana, and Biography of Albert Einstein". Do you get the sense that this girl takes after her dad in the "history buff" department? Yup, it's true. Smile. "Mom," she said incredulously, "most of my friends don't even know who Ghandi is!"
The weather has been absolutely incredible here this week. Happy sigh.
Tomorrow is my mom's birthday. I'd like to get her something - sort of a peace offering to say "I really DO like you even though I don't always act like it", but I have no idea what to get. My sister wrote a lovely post about her.
Maybe it has something to do with Spring arriving, but I have this sudden urge to rearrange furniture. I think I'll start with my office today. It's a little crowded now that my bike is parked next to my desk.
I hate it when I hear that someone's been belittling my children. Julie's a strong girl, but some of the things that have been said to her by a respected grownup lately would make even an adult want to cry. I'm struggling with what to do about it.
I went to a friend's art show opening yesterday. She paints wonderful colourful landscapes and florals, but my favourite pieces of hers are the art quilts (hers is the third one). There's something about textile art that draws me in. I went home and wanted to make something with fabric. But by the time I responded to all of the needs and wants of my children, I was way too tired.
This one's mostly for my siblings...
Thursday, April 19, 2007
It’s not that I start my rides with “Dear God” or make my way through a list of prayer requests. It’s more like I feel connected to the spirit while I ride. The pedaling, the sunshine, the crunch of the tires, the sweat on my brow, the exertion of my muscles, the feel of the handlebars in my grip, the taste of the cool water when I’m thirsty – it all feels meditative and prayerful to me.
Often, my most inspired thoughts visit me while I ride. The spirit breath whispers in my ear and awakens my creativity.
I’ve missed that, in those long cold months of winter.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
We've never had a Mac before, but have several friends and associates (particularly those who are in creative fields) who swear it's the ONLY way to go for all things related to design and creative expression. Since I like to dabble in design now and then, and hope to do more of it some day when I can shake off the shackles of a full time job and do some consulting work (which will mostly be about writing and workshop/leadership facilitation, but may involve some design), we decided to "invest in the future".
Yes, Lucia, it has a camera. See that tiny dot at the top, in the middle? It's an itty bitty camera, and it has already provided the girls with hours of pleasure. It's a rather clever design, actually - the screen flashes when the shutter opens, so you actually have light on your subject too. Plus there are lots of fun special effects that the girls like to mess around with. (I'm on the wrong computer right now, or I'd show you some of the results of their efforts.)
We're still learning the new technology, but so far, so good! (Oh, by the way - if you're our friendly neighbour who is so generously sharing your wireless hook-up with us - THANK YOU!)
Monday, April 16, 2007
Yes, through the wonders of modern technology, I can increase my laziness even more, and blog from bed. Woohoo! (I'd take a picture with the built-in camera, but my purple flannel pajamas aren't really screen worthy.)
We're not normally the type of family that HAS to have the latest in technology (we don't even have a cell phone), but I do believe I'm falling in love with this little baby curled up in my lap. Aaahhhh....!
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Pale green iris shoots poking through the dirt
Breezes lifting kites in the air
Soccer balls bouncing off the fence
Children drinking Slurpees on the front lawn
Shrimp skewers on the barbecue
The old familiar feeling of bike pedals under my feet
Spring has finally arrived!
Friday, April 13, 2007
Accepting the award means that I'm supposed to pass it on to five more people. I've tried to do that a couple of times, but every time I tried, I had some kind of mental block and never got it done. WHOM should I pick? Out of all of those blogs I love to visit, which ones are written by "thinkers"? Well, they ALL are - otherwise I wouldn't waste my time. (Oh, and by the way, I haven't updated my blogroll for a long time, so if you're not on there, don't take it personally.)
Here's the thing... I'm not going to pass it on, even though there are lots of blogs on my blogroll that deserve it. The truth is, I'm starting to have an itty-bitty problem with all these blog awards floating around the internet. I know they're meant to be genuine and generous, but there's just something about it that makes me squirm a little - like I'm back in high school and stuck in a popularity contest time warp. "Aw, so-and-so got FIVE thinking blogger awards and I only got TWO. What am I doing wrong? Maybe I'm not wearing the right shoes with my outfit. Maybe I need to sit with the cool kids in the lunch room."
It's the same thing with comments. I try not to do it, but it happens almost in spite of myself. "Oh - that post only warranted 5 comments. What did I do wrong? Maybe I'm losing my touch." (Yikes! Now I sound like my mother every time she bakes buns!) Ridiculous, I know. That's why I've stopped looking at my stat counter. I don't want to obsess about how many people are showing up. I just want to write for the fun of it. That's why I started my blog in the first place. If people show up, that's a bonus, but I don't want to feel like I NEED that for validation.
So - thanks for the awards. (And please, PLEASE don't take offense - I'd hate to sound ungrateful or self-righteous.) But I think I'll pass this time. I'll keep thinking, and if my thoughts provoke yours, you're certainly welcome to let me know, but I don't need an award for it.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
I was intriqued by this article and accompanying videos. (If it doesn't load properly, keep trying.) A world class musician plays in a busy subway station, and almost nobody notices. Too much work to do. Too many deadlines. Too many meetings to attend. Too many bosses breathing down their necks.
Would you have stopped?
Updated to add: So, I'm sitting here thinking about beauty and art and - on a whim - I typed the following into my browser: www.beauty.com. Oh, this is too rich. You have to look. What do YOU think the wise ol' internet thinks beauty is? I think that's one of those words that has lost its power. (What was that quote from C.S. Lewis again, ccap?)
Perhaps if some of the people who are visiting beauty.com spent a little less of their time looking in the mirror for beauty, they'd have a little more time on their hands to stop when it's right there in front of them in the subway station.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
1. Marcel and I brought home a good-as-new couch from the thrift store last night. I like it, but my oldest two daughters pronounced it “ugly, ugly, VERY ugly” (anyone read Robert Munsch?).
2. We also bought a lovely wing-back chair that needs recovering, so I have a project for the weekend. Or the weekend after that.
3. I can’t wait to get rid of the very ratty furniture currently residing in my living room.
4. When I wandered through the bookstore yesterday, I was filled with a familiar sense of melancholy. It was a revival of my deep longing to have a book published and sitting up there on the bookstore shelves with all those other books.
5. We ordered a laptop recently. (Yes, our income tax cheque arrived.) One computer in a family of five computer-users (including one who’s a university student and trumps all the rest of us) is taxing us to the limit.
6. Maybe once we have a laptop, I’ll be able to find more moments to sneak away and write that book that will some day be on those bookstore shelves.
7. I am SO glad the Canadian women’s hockey team won the world championship last night (right here in Winnipeg). Sorry to my U.S. friends, but our team beat yours last night 5 to 1 for the gold.
8. Tonight, my bike is coming down from the rafters. On Monday, as long as it doesn’t snow again, I hope to ride to work. Oh, I can hardly wait! Now if only the river would go down so I could take the river pathway.
9. When I was in Dallas, I bought Anne Lamott’s new book “Grace Eventually”. Few writers make me feel as much like I’ve come “home” as Anne Lamott. It was the perfect antidote for the strange solitude I felt in Dallas. (I was happy that “Grace Eventually” did not involve as much Bush-bashing as “Plan B” – that got old fairly quickly.)
10. Soccer season begins for us tonight. Nikki has her first practice. Yes, it really IS spring! Yippee! Strange as it may seem, I am one of those parents who does not moan about having to spend every Spring evening sitting next to a soccer field. I LOVE it! I get to sit in a lawnchair in the sunshine (okay, so I’m being optimistic), chat with other parents, watch my kids do something they enjoy, and usually bike to and from the game with my family – what’s not to like?
Monday, April 09, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
I don’t nearly always “get it” though. Sometimes it just seems like a strange thing to believe in. Sometimes it just seems like a strange way to direct your life. And sometimes it seems like there aren’t very many Christians I actually like very much.
Mostly, though, I think my restlessness stems from the fact that the central story of the Christian faith – the story of Christ’s death – doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I’ve heard every explanation in the book, and sometimes I’m okay with accepting one or another of those, but other times they’re just not enough to convince me to continue to commit to a faith that has such a gory, complicated death as the central focus.
I’ve been through a few rejection phases along the journey. Sometimes it’s because the questions run so deep and sometimes I just can’t get past how messed up the church can be. In university, I studied eastern religions and found myself quite drawn to some of them. Buddhism, for example, had many principles that intrigued me, and there was something appealing about a faith perspective that didn’t involve believing that someone needed to “die for my sins”.
For whatever reason, even when I wandered away and tasted other fruit, I always found myself coming back to the faith of my ancestors. Perhaps it’s like coming home – it’s not necessarily always beautiful or an easy place to be, but it’s safe and known.
This afternoon I sat in the Good Friday service, once again puzzled by the story we’re asked to believe. The music team sang of the sacrifice of Christ’s life for our salvation, and I sat there feeling numb because it just didn’t make sense to me. Why? Why did he have to die a brutal death? If God created us, why couldn’t he just forgive us and redeem us? I know the church answers – I’ve heard them all my life – but sometimes the answers escape me and I’m left with nothing but more questions to add to my considerable heap.
While I listened to the songs, I prayed that somehow, something would be revealed to me – that I wouldn’t go through another Easter season with this numb restless feeling that plagues me so often. Almost against my will, I stood up and entered the stations of the cross.
I read the pages describing the stages of Christ’s death, and I tried to imagine the pain and agony he suffered. But WHY? Why did God have to forsake him? Why did he have to go through that to “reconcile us” to God?
I felt an angry knot form in my stomach. Why didn’t this make sense to me? Why is faith so easy for other people but not for me?
Somewhere along the line – I think it was the station that describes the nails in his hands and the sword thrust into his side – the story of Jesus’ death started to intermingle with the story of my father’s death. I’ve been thinking about that again recently, because my mom got a phone call from an emergency room nurse who was with him when he died. My dad died a brutal death – run over by the tractor and baler he’d just been driving. Passers-by saw it happen and stopped to try to help him. The emergency nurse was one of them.
I never saw my dad’s injuries (he’d been prepared by the undertaker by the time I saw him) but apparently he’d had some serious internal injuries as well as a deep gash in his side. Imagining that gash in his side brought the image of Jesus to mind.
I think Dad died fairly quickly, though the nurse told mom that there was still a faint heartbeat by the time they got him to the hospital. We now know a couple of things – the first people who stopped asked him if he was okay, and in his understated way said “I don’t think so”; and he must have stood up at least for a short time after the machinery crushed him because the blood flowed down his legs.
I have gone through that scene many times in my mind. I envision him lying in the ditch trying to comprehend what was going on. I imagine the excruciating pain he must have felt. I envision him speaking to those people and probably thinking “oh I don’t want to be too much trouble for you”. But most of all, I imagine how lonely he probably felt as he drew his last breaths. If he had any thoughts at all (and who knows really, since he was probably in shock), he was probably thinking “oh if I could at least speak to my wife or see my kids and grandkids. If only I had them to hold my hand right now. Maybe then things would be alright.” I can even imagine Dad crying out “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?”
By what I can only describe as God’s grace, though, Dad did not die entirely alone. The first people who stopped – the people who’d watched the baler roll over him – were a pastor and a nurse. The next person was the emergency room nurse who phoned mom recently. The pastor prayed with Dad until they loaded him into the ambulance, and the nurses administered CPR. It has always given our family a great deal of comfort knowing that they did what they could and that Dad was not alone. His faith was always a great source of comfort for him and that pastor’s prayers must have been a form of solace as he passed on from this life.
As all of this circulated through my mind this afternoon, I envisioned Jesus hanging up there on that cross. While he died, no-one administered CPR. Nobody held his hand and prayed for him. No ambulance arrived. Everyone had abandoned him, including his closest friends. After brutally slamming nails into his hands and slashing his side, the soldiers taunted him and called him names. While he breathed his last breaths, they gambled over his clothes.
Can you imagine feeling so abandoned? I have felt lonely before, and sometimes even abandoned by friends or family, but never in my time of greatest need. Whenever I have been hurt – physically or emotionally – someone has always showed up to offer comfort. I just can’t fathom the agony of crying out to your own father while you die “why have you forsaken me?”
As I completed the stations of the cross, I found myself weeping. No, I hadn’t come much closer to understanding why it was all necessary, but I realized that - regardless of my questions - I was still committed to this difficult story at the centre of my faith.
This much I know – if Jesus could suffer through all of that, and then forgive those soldiers who taunted him and the “friends” who abandoned him, then there’s something about him that intrigues me enough to keep me coming back.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Politicians are often quite clever in their use of language. Pay attention, lest you be swayed. Recently, I heard George Bush talk about the 15 British military personnel as "hostages" in Iran. That wasn't accidental. He didn't call them "captives". I don't know whether or not they were really in Iranian waters, but if they were, shouldn't they be referred to as "captives" or even "prisoners"? If Iranians had been caught in US waters, you can be sure Mr. Bush wouldn't say they were holding them "hostage".
We all do it - use language to our benefit, either to imply the other party is at fault (those hostile Iranians taking hostages - they MUST be part of the "axis of evil"), or to imply that we are above reproach. Read your local paper, and try to look with unbiased eyes how many times your own country or city is defined in positive terms while others are viewed through a different lens. It's often a subtle thing, but even journalists are guilty of a little bias and ethnocentricity.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
- hanging out in the hotel pool
- watching Marcel and Julie skip through the mall parking lot, trying to convince the easily humiliated Nikki to join them
- seeing Maddie's reaction when she discovered Legoland and realized how many things can be made out of Lego
- watching the expressions of Marcel, Nikki, and Julie as they splashed through the log ride
- giggling after Marcel managed to shake loose a bag of taco chips from the snack vending machine
- eating at the Rainforest Café while fake monkeys and snakes swung from the branches above
- staying up late in the hotel room
- cuddling with Maddie on her own special hotel room cot
- enjoying mother-daughter bonding time with Nikki in Ikea while everyone else swam
- ice cream - mmmmm...
- taking pictures of Marcel trying on hats
- and (this one's for the horny redneck Vicki) "reconnecting" with my husband in the bathroom while the children slept. :-) (B&S will appreciate that one too, given our hotel room history together.)
And here are the pictures to prove it... (except for that last one - there will be NO pictures of that!)
You can see the whole set over here.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Every once in awhile, though, the light shines through, and I know I've given them some small intangible gift that makes up for some of the poor decisions I might have made.
Last week, Craig Kielburger was talking about an experience he'd had somewhere in Africa. He'd been visiting a village where they'd helped dig a well, and when the rain started to pour down, the visitors had all run for cover while the local people had run out into the downpour. One of the villagers had come to him and dragged him outside saying "It's raining! We have to dance! Rain is good! We need rain for our crops to grow!"
While he spoke, I smiled - remembering that just the week before, Maddie had tried to drag me outside. "Mom! It's raining! Let's go outside!" I was busy at the time and didn't really want to get wet, so I stayed inside, but she went and played in the front yard and came inside soaked to the bone and grinning.
Suddenly, as I listened to Craig's story, the memory of that moment made my eyes fill with tears. Of COURSE she wanted me to go outside - she still believes that that's what you do when it rains! Last year, when it finally rained after a dry spell, the girls and I all ran outside to dance with the raindrops. (You can find pictures here - check out Maddie's face!) We followed our dance with a walk around the block where splashing through puddles was mandatory.
The moment of realization was a tiny affirmation that I'm doing alright as a mom. I might mess up now and then, but at least I'm raising a child who believes that when it rains, you really should dance.