Monday, September 29, 2008

In case you're wondering about the person I got to interview...

One of my favourite writers recently has been Brian McLaren. He's a refreshing voice in a world in which we've heard too many people talking about a version of Christianity that gets too caught up in a couple of narrow issues and turns a blind eye to some of the bigger problems in the world. I interviewed him for the program we've launched, Fast for Change, in which we're inviting people to spend World Food Day, October 16, fasting and praying about the great imbalances in a world in which over 800 million people are still hungry, and our neighbour to the south is busy bailing out a 700 billion dollar "mistake" made by the filthy rich.

Find out more at www.endhungerfast.com.

(By the way, it's an audio podcast, not a video. Don't be fooled by the image.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Out here on the prairies, hangin' with the grasshoppers...

Whoever said the prairies are boring, just wasn't looking closely enough.

(Bet ya don't get to ride a combine on your business trips!)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gone again

Two business trips in the same month that the family is readjusting to the schedule of school/soccer/music lessons? Yeah, um, NOT a good idea. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just wondering

If you have a licence plate that says "savior" is it just your clever way of saying "Jesus is my co-pilot" or do you have an over-inflated view of your place in the world? (Yes, I actually saw one on my bike ride to work this morning.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Home again

I am back home after 5 days spent in Southern Ontario. It was a good trip - a decent mix of exploring the countryside in a lovely little rental car, meeting some of our long-time donors, staying in a gorgeous bed and breakfast, attending a thought-provoking conference, getting to interview one of my writing heroes (more on that later), wandering along the lake on a beautiful afternoon (yes, I WAS there to work, but I couldn't resist some wandering in between meetings and working the crowd at a couple of display booths). There were a few challenges, but the good out-weighed the bad. And it ended on a really REALLY good note, so I came home happy.

I've got lots of pictures, and I'll get to them soon, but for now I thought I'd share some of the "coming home" shots. I had a window seat and the most amazing light, so I managed to snap a few aerial shots that I'm rather fond of. The first one (above) shows the sun reflecting on the lake through the mist. The third one shows the lovely patchwork of the prairies in harvest season.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What I was reading at the waterfall

You’ve all heard me on my soap-boxes before. I talk a good game when it comes to social justice – at least when it comes to human trafficking of young girls in India, or reaching out in friendship instead of charity to my friend Paulina in Kenya. Those things are all far removed from my everyday life, and I can rail at the machine and spew any manner of righteous anger about what we should be doing to walk alongside those who are hurting – at least those far away.

But when it comes to social justice in my own back yard, I admit, I falter. When it comes right down to it, I don’t like to trip over a drunk man sleeping off his demons in my office doorway. I don’t like my bus-stop solitude to be interrupted by the young man trying to bum a cigarette or a few bucks for food. I don’t like to be inconvenienced by the poverty in my own neighbourhood. I know it sounds self-centred and uncompassionate, but it’s true.

So when my friend Steve handed me the book Bent Hope and told me I would love it, I was skeptical. How could I possibly love a book full of the stories of people living on the street? How could that be an uplifting experience that would leave me feeling anything other than guilty about my lack of compassion?

I took the book along on our recent weekend at the lake none-the-less. So far, I’ve never gone wrong reading something Steve recommended, so I thought I should at least give it a try.

What can I say? Steve was right. This book is nothing short of brilliant. You should ALL read it. Really. It will change you. It will change the way you look at the “drunk” sleeping in the office doorway or the “punk” trying to bum a cigarette. It will make you want to sit down beside someone on the street and listen to their story.

Tim Huff has an uncanny way of bending words into incredible stories and undeniable wisdom. More than that, though, he has an uncanny way of seeing through the dirt under the fingernails, the smell of yesterday’s alcohol, and the bitterness of a life gone off the rails to the nugget of truth and beauty underneath. He doesn’t sugarcoat life on the streets – no, it’s raw and real and ugly – but what he does is recognize the tiny light of hope – even if it’s badly bent out of shape and barely recognizable - shining through each person he meets.

Here’s the thing – more than just a powerful set of stories, this book renews my desire to believe in God. This book reminds me that if we set aside the many failures of the church, the messed up legalism and hate disguised as "WWJD", the narrow-mindedness and judgementalism – if we set all of that aside and look to the pure and unadulterated message and life of Jesus, we will find what we’ve all been aching for – hope. Tim Huff is out on the streets trying to live out that message of hope in a way that few pastors, televangelists, or social justice soap-box shouters have ever done. Not only that, but he’s letting the light of hope shine through the stories and lives of messed up people to teach those of us who’ve let cynicism blind us that it really is okay to dream of a different future.

Bent Hope will give you hope.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

15 years

Some days you wake up and you realize.
You’ve gotten lost in the mire of too many petty arguments.
Too many “why didn’t you wipe the counter?”
Too much “when are you EVER going to fix the couch?”
Too often focusing on the reasons why he annoys you.
Too few moments when you say “thank you” and mean it.
Worn out, you whisper a little prayer.
“Please god. Help me to remember why I love him.”
But you don’t expect the answer.
Because the next morning it’s the same.
And soon it feels like the only words that come out of either of your mouths
Are words most meant to hurt. To pay back.
You try to remember the words you were taught to say
At that long ago marriage retreat.
“You are not my enemy.”
But they get stuck in your throat.

And then one day
You’re sitting by a waterfall.
You lift your eyes from your book
And you see him climbing off a rock.
Abandoning his fishing rod.
Wading through icy water.
Pausing to help a stranger untangle her fishing line.
And suddenly
You can’t help yourself.
Your eyes fill with tears.
Because you remember.
This is why you let him into your heart.
This is why you said “I do” fifteen years ago.
This is why you decided the risk of “forever” was worth it.

This easy kindness to strangers.
This interest in other people’s lives.
This belief in the value of other people’s stories.
This willingness to pause for the untangling.
The same effortless friendliness
That makes waitresses feel special
And lost boys from single-parent homes remember that they have some value.
And more than that
You remember
That when this same kindness, this same interest,
This same willingness
Is extended to you
Too often you turn it away, reject it
Or stubbornly misinterpret it
Because it wasn’t spoken in the language you thought you needed.

And though you know that someday
You’ll get caught in the mire again
For now
You will remember
And say thank you.

Happy (belated) anniversary, buddy.
Thanks for a lovely weekend.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Things I'm wondering today

What if I didn’t own a mirror? What if none of us did? What if, each day, I presented myself to you (and you to me) assuming we are each complete and beautiful as we are and that we will accept each other that way?

What version of the Bible do you have to read to believe that torture is validated? What happened to turning the other cheek?

Will I ever be caught up with the laundry? Will the clothes ever end up in drawers again instead of in baskets or on the laundry table?

What if a politician ran a campaign on a “kindness” platform and determined never to slander their opponent or say any mean things? Would any of us listen?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My 15 minutes (or is it 15 seconds?)

Having my picture on the front page of the Christian Week won't exactly make me a household name, but it's kinda fun none-the-less. (Although my friend said that the picture makes me look like I'm now a bonafide "Missionary". Ha!) In the "don't believe everything you read in the media" file, though (not even the CHRISTIAN media), the article says I was in Bangladesh "helping to distribute rice after Cyclone Sidr." Not true. The only rice I handled made its way into my own stomach. (With the exception of one plateful after maggots were discovered.)
Oh... and then there's my poem that came out in the most recent edition of Rhubarb. I think if you click on the image, you can probably read it.

And in today's edition of the Globe and Mail (a national newspaper in Canada), an essay by yours truly. You can read it here (at least for today - it might not work tomorrow.)

I have one other magazine piece coming out soon, but I'm not sure when.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008


Everybody’s got a few so-and-so’s in their life. You know who they are. It’s the person who always succeeds brilliantly in every area in which you fail. So-and-so has been making my life miserable lately with her “fingernails on a chalkboard” need for perfection.

So-and-so wouldn’t have wasted an hour watching mindless television last night (especially when it was a re-run she’d already seen) and certainly wouldn’t have left 2 loads of clean laundry unfolded for the children to rifle through this morning.

So-and-so doesn’t have a months-old pile of bills gathering dust on top of the microwave – she would have sorted them all and filed them away in crisp neat colour-coded folders. And none of the bills would ever be paid late.

So-and-so wouldn’t have forgotten to go through her daughter’s school supply list one last time, sending her to school without the paper towel, paint shirt, and ziplock bags.

So-and-so would have put the slow-cooker on HIGH on Sunday morning, so that when it was time for potluck, the potatoes in the stew would have been “al dente” rather than rock hard.

So-and-so wouldn’t let her children go to bed with their clothes on – she would ALWAYS have clean, folded pajamas lined up in the appropriate places in their dresser drawers.

So-and-so doesn’t show up at soccer games on rainy days without an umbrella or rain jacket. In fact, so-and-so would probably have extra umbrellas in her car for all the other poor slobs who’d forgotten theirs. Plus a couple of blankets to keep the players warm on the bench. And at the end of the game, she'd pull out rice krispie squares for all the players, with a few extra for their younger siblings.

So-and-so wouldn’t just have good intentions, she’d actually follow through and phone those people who are sick or lonely. She’d probably also bring them a casserole. And wash their floors for them.

So-and-so always stands up to bullies, speaks her mind even when it means risking her reputation, and never hears the words “avoids confrontation” on a performance review.

So-and-so never runs out of money before the end of the pay period, even in September when she has to buy school supplies and new indoor runners for three kids, pay lunch fees, pay soccer registration fees, and pay for music lessons with one pay cheque right after a family vacation. She would have been prepared and stashed money away for just such a rainy day.

So-and-so never feels awkward in a crowd and always knows how to make other people feel comfortable and relaxed. She can start a conversation with anyone and never hurts anyone’s feelings because they think she’s stuck-up and ignores them.

I hate so-and-so.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Speaking of China...

Sarah, one of my newest blog friends, is on her way to China to be united with her sweet little adopted daughter, Chen Jin Lin. I'm so excited for her! Why don't you run on over there and wish her well?

And if you see Maddie emerging from a hole in the ground while you're there, Sarah, be sure to send her home!

Friday, September 05, 2008

She was a skater girl

Conversation in our kitchen after school:

Maddie: Today me and my friends tried to dig to China. We didn't make it to China, though. We made it to water. Pause. Tomorrow, I think we'll make it to China.

A few minutes later...

Maddie: But... what if we make it to China, how are we going to get back to Canada?

Me: I don't know. What do you think you should do?

Maddie: Well, I guess we'll have to build a REALLY long ladder.

A few minutes later...

Maddie: Once we get there, I think we'll organize field trips for all the other kids.

Me: So... why China? Why not some other country on the other side of the world, like India or Afghanistan?

Maddie: Duh, Mom. China is COOL!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

1. I think I've sealed my nomination for "wife of the year" award. On my last holiday of the summer (last Friday), I crawled out of bed at 5:00 in the morning to go fishing with my dear husband. Yes, you read that right - FIVE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING!

2. Here he is, just as the sun was rising over his "happy place" - his favourite fishin' hole in the world. We've been visiting this place for about 16 years by now (since before we got married).

3. Speaking of which, we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary while we were on vacation in August. We're finally getting a chance to celebrate it for real in a few weeks with a romantic getaway in a cabin that's so close to his happy place, we'll probably spend some time fishing there again. But not at 5:00 a.m., or it won't be MY happy place!

4. I like fishing, but it's mostly because Marcel is fairly tolerant when I let him look after both of our fishing rods, and instead I do a couple of my favourite things - reading and wandering around taking pictures. I only managed to reel in one tiny fish, and then I passed the rods on to him. (Oh don't I just look so wide awake? I can hardly believe I'm showing you this picture.)

5. Here's me doing one of those favourite things after catching my token fish:6. If you're looking for a good read, try "Twenty Chickens for a Saddle". (Thanks, AP!)

7. And here's one of my favourite pictures from the day of "fishing" - just before the sun burned off the morning mist:
8. In other excursions, in the last weekend of the summer, we finally managed to squeeze in a visit to my brother's place (about 2 hours away) for pizza night. No trip to their house is ever complete without the cousins putting on a little parade after a visit to the dress-up box.
8. Why is it that EVERYTHING has to start up again in September? After a relaxing August, I'm just not ready for the crazy schedule of soccer games, music lessons, homework, and a little business travel thrown in for good measure. Can I go back to that lovely island off the west coast again?

9. Maddie's comment after seeing one of her friends after a summer apart. "So, L has some blue hair now. It's not every day you see someone with blue hair."

10. The first day of school was fairly uneventful and relatively low stress in our house. Except for a minor meltdown over a forgotten pair of indoor shoes, and a tiny bit of stress over not knowing if a combination lock would work, the kids are all quite content and relaxed. Whew.

11. Why are there so many blasted mosquitoes around these days? Shouldn't they have hibernated... or DIED... by now?!?

12. If I can't get wife of the year, can I at least get mom of the year for watching soccer games on nights that are so blasted cold my fingers can barely function enough to zip up my third layer of jackets?

13. Okay, so I'm probably not wife of the year or mother of the year, but you can't deny that I'm pretty darn lucky to be the mom of these three unique and beautiful girls: (First day of school photos, and I actually got all three of them - or at least the one that normally chafes at group photos - to cooperate long enough for a few pictures!)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

In a rare moment of weakness, I blog about American politics

You know, the selection of Sarah Palin as a potential vice president should sound like a good thing for a feminist like me. But something stinks here, and I don’t think this is doing the women’s movement any good. Truthfully, I think Sarah Palin should have been smart enough to realize that she was not being selected for her brains or her leadership ability. Nope, she’s just a pawn in the big game. She was selected because she fit a bunch of vote-grabbing criteria.

Is she a woman and can she potentially steal some of Hillary’s voters? Check.

Is she young and potentially appealing to the younger voters who might not give McCain a second glance? Check.

Is she attractive and will she make McCain look good in campaign posters? Check.

Does she offer a little “diversity balance” next to McCain? Check.

Does she represent family values to the religious right who chafe at McCain’s stand on abortion? Check.

Will she appease the gun-totin’ NRA crowd? Check.

Does she sufficiently represent a “change agenda” that might sway those on the fringes of Barack’s campaign? Check.

Cringe. If I were her, I think I’d be more insulted than honoured to be selected. But then again, I suspect she’s letting her own ambitions cloud her judgment, because otherwise (and this I say reluctantly, as someone who has always been a “working-away-from-home” mom and supports other women’s rights to make those choices) why would she subject her family to the scrutiny they now have to undergo? Why would someone choose the high-pressure, high intensity, high scrutiny life of federal politics when you have a baby with Downs syndrome and a pregnant seventeen year old daughter who clearly will need lots of love and support (and TIME) in the coming year? (And, just so I don’t sound like I’m slipping from my feminist leanings, I would feel the same way if she were a man making those choices. Pregnant daughters and Downs babies need their fathers around too.)

Honestly, I don’t think the fact that she has a pregnant daughter will make or break her ability to be a good vice president. If she’s a good leader, let that stand on its own. But I do think that making a choice to place that pregnant daughter in a fish bowl for all the world to chew up and spit out when they’re done shows some poor judgment (not to mention questionable “family values”) on her part.

But what do I know? I’m just a Canadian.