Friday, October 31, 2008


The costumes - handmade by mom...

Happy Pumpkin Man (and friend)...
Trick-or-treating with the cousins...

When Halloween is still magic

When she is sixteen years old, rushing off to a halloween party with her friends and no longer interested in trick-or-treating with Mom, I want to remember six-year-old Maddie, blowing out the candle in the jack-o-lantern, turning off the kitchen light (even though I was doing the dishes) and whispering "Good night, Happy Pumpkin Man". When I protested, she said "But Mom - he needs a good night sleep - he's got a big day tomorrow!"

This morning I told her that I was suspicious that Happy Pumpkin Man might have snuck out and partied all night. He's got such a short life, after all - wouldn't you want to live it up while you still can?

Monday, October 27, 2008

They make me so proud

Nikki and Julie to Maddie before heading to a movie: “Of COURSE we don’t buy candy at the movie theatre. It’s way too expensive. Instead we go to Bulk Barn to stock up on cheap candy and then we bring a big purse along so we can stuff it with our own snacks. When you’ve been raised by OUR mom, you know how to find the deals.”

I'm so proud!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Time to pack the glue gun away for another year

I know you’ll all find this hard to believe, but, with Halloween still more than a week away, I AM FINISHED THE HALLOWEEN COSTUMES! And they are good. Martha Stewart good. “Mom you ROCK!” good. Try-them-on-a-dozen-times-a-day-just-so-you-can-stare-at-yourself-in-the-mirror good. I am basking in the glow. For the first time in thirteen years, I will NOT be huddled over a sewing machine at midnight on October 30th. (Sorry Accidental Seamstress if I’ve left you feeling abandoned.)

Twenty years from now, when my children are grown, it’s what they’ll talk about. “Remember the costumes mom used to make? The sheep? The monkey? The fairy princess complete with gossamer wings? The elephant? The Campbell’s Soup can?” “Yeah, she was a little crazy/obsessed/single-minded two weeks before Halloween, but MAN did we have good costumes!”

It’s what I do. I make good costumes. Once a year, I get to rock their socks off. Dig deep into my psyche and you’ll probably discover that it’s really about me trying to compensate for all of my other failings as a parent, but I’m not about to visit a shrink to find that out. I’ll just sew. And glue. And cut. And then send them off into the streets to wow their friends and beg for candy.

Truthfully, I didn’t think the glue gun would become a once-a-year tool. I used to spend a lot of time creating things – all kinds of things from leather moccasins to dried flower arrangements to hand-painted Christmas ornaments – before I had kids. When I started having kids, I thought I would be one of those moms who would forever be hauling out paints and feathers and little bits of fabric and spending many magical afternoons creating things with my fanciful, imaginative children. That was before reality set it. It turns out I’m not really very fond of the mixture of children and paints and feathers and little bits of fabric. It turns out that it’s an awful lot of work to create – and more importantly clean up the messes – with your children. And it turns out that a full time job on top of motherhood doesn’t leave a lot of time for magical art-filled afternoons. Some days just keeping them fed seems beyond my capacity.

Nope – I didn’t live up to my own expectations. It’s not that I never do art projects with them, it’s just that I haven’t been as committed to it as I’d anticipated. But what I still do, despite the years it nearly led to a nervous breakdown, is make good costumes. And sometimes, in this obstacle course called parenting, there’s such a thing as “close enough”.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tell me something happy before I go to sleep

Yesterday wasn’t very happy. It started getting better after a lousy morning, but then the phone call came. “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” Marcel asked. It turned out there wasn’t any good news. Just a crapped out hot water tank spilling water all over the basement floor. And a big repair bill. Of course this comes only a week after Marcel finally got paid (after substitute teaching for a month and a half and after 5 and a half years of living off my income while he went to school) and we dared to hope that we could finally get ahead. Pffftt. There goes that pipe dream.

So I need to take a page from one of my favourite bedtime books, and think happy thoughts. Here goes…

- Nothing was seriously damaged by the water in the basement.
- Despite this big repair bill, I managed to get at least slightly caught up on some of the other bills hanging over our heads. AND I cleaned up that pesky stack of papers and bills and envelopes cluttering the top of the microwave.
- I have a great job that I still love after 4 years and that won’t likely be put in jeopardy by this economic downturn.
- The new indoor soccer facility is only 10 minutes from my house! Yay!
- I managed to rearrange my next business trip so I won’t miss Halloween after all. Plus I get to visit a part of the country I don’t get to very often.
- I’ve made my way back to the gym and I’m enjoying it again.
- Thanks to the gym, I was the only family member who got to have a warm shower this morning.
- My kids think I rock because I make Halloween costumes that make their friends jealous. There are few words more sweet than “you ROCK mom!”
- On Friday night I had the most lovely time with one of my newest friends – enjoying a Margaret Atwood lecture and ending the evening with some yummy dim sum.
- There’s a little girl who wakes up too often during the night (especially when she’s sick), but when she wakes up, it’s me she comes looking for. Me. I get to be her mom. I get to be the one to sooth her and cuddle her and chase away the monsters. Just for a little while until she grows up and learns to chase away her own monsters. For this moment, I don’t want to overlook how lucky that makes me. Especially since I don’t get to chase away her brother’s monsters.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You know you're having a bad day when...

- your sick daughter gets up at least 5 times during the night;
- you miss not one, but TWO buses on the way to work;
- you trip over air in your driveway and gracefully plant yourself face first on the concrete; AND
- somebody swears at you when you step off the bus (just because you turned to wait for a colleague and got in her way).

And that was only what happened before you got to work...

I should have stayed in bed.

My body aches from its encounter with the pavement.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I took a day off work today and went on a little pilgrimage - to some of the places that hold pieces of my past.

("Tonight I am the Wind" by Kerri Woelke)

Update: In case you're wondering about the places in the video, here's a list:

Clip 1 - on the highway between Winnipeg and Arden, my home town

Clip 2 - the farm where I grew up (this is the back view where you can see the dilapitated buildings that used to be my dad's barns. The front view of the house is no longer visible because the trees my mom and brother planted have grown so big they've obscured the view.)

Clip 3 - the pasture that used to hold my dad's sheep, where his sign is still leaning against a hydro pole

Clip 4 - driving through downtown Arden, past the post office, the grocery store, and the municipal office

Clip 5 - walking across the White Mud River on the swinging bridge in Lansdowne Community Park in Arden (where we spent many a happy summer afternoon and where my siblings and I were all baptized)

Clip 6 - my dad's grave in the Arden cemetery, perched on top of Arden Ridge (he's got the best spot in the cemetery, next to some of the only trees in the cemetery)

Clip 7 - my dad's grave

Clip 8 - the ditch where my dad died, crushed by his tractor and bailer

Friday, October 10, 2008


After a cloudy day, the sun peeked out just before it lowered itself beneath the horizon. I was drawn outside by the stunning glow of the glorious poplar tree down the street.
(Click to enlarge.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Faith of many colours

There were three of us presenting “ministry opportunities” in church that Sunday. After the first presentation, the Pastor called for a laying on of hands for the man who’d made the presentation. In true Pentecostal style, men in suits gathered around, laying one hand on their brother-in-service who was bringing the gospel to the underprivileged of their city and raising their other hand toward God.

I gulped and hoped they wouldn’t lay hands on me. They didn’t. Nor did they for the other woman who made a presentation about her bookstore ministry. Though it was probably an indication of deep-rooted sexism, I was willing to let that one go.

My presentation fell flat. The Pastor hadn’t managed to get my powerpoint to work (or hadn’t even tried, I’m not sure which), so I had to tell the stories without the pictures. As I talked about Aghnia in India who suffers from not only hunger but injustices that we have some responsibility for, I realized that people were only half listening. They’d been more engaged when they’d heard about how Jesus had transformed the poor of their city into Bible-thumping-praise-Jesus evangelists and prophets.

They were good people in this church, seeking goodness in this world. But they’d come to church this Sunday morning to hear about what God could do for them, not about what they should be doing for Aghnia in India. If Aghnia repented of her sin and raised her hands toward Jesus, perhaps then her story would be worth listening to.

The presentations over, the Pastor got up to preach. I’d dared to hope that the presentations were meant to replace the sermon, but I’d underestimated the drive of a fired-up-Pentecostal-capital-P-Pastor who feels called to lay the word of Jesus on the hearts of his (big H or little h?) followers. I remember little of what he preached about, but I know there were loudly expressed words about sin and evil and salvation and healing. I thought back to the comment I’d heard not long before about why television preachers always sound so angry. (“Imagine hearing the same tone of voice from someone advertising a mattress, or a friend telling you about their new love interest,” the person had said. “You’d wonder what was making them so pissed off.”)

I wanted to be judgmental about the lack of intellectual thought in the sermon, or the emotional “uh-huhs” and “praise Jesus” in the crowd. I wanted to cast it off as irrelevant and even damaging. It didn’t fit my questioning/grappling/over-thinking approach to faith. But… is it a bad thing if some people find an emotional doorway to God while others of us seek truth through more intellectual routes?

After the sermon, the Pastor invited those who needed healing to join him in the front. “If you haven’t received healing yet, it’s not because God is doing something wrong, it’s because YOU ARE NOT BELIEVING it will be done,” he shouted. I cringed.

One by one, people shuffled to the front of the church, crying out to God for release from whatever ailed them. A bent over old man, a tall elegant middle-aged woman – people of many races and walks of life.

My eyes came to rest on the young father who carried his small boy to the front. Was the healing for himself? His son? I didn’t have to wonder long. The Pastor laid his hands on the boy. Trustingly, he reached out and the Pastor scooped him into his arms. When they turned in my direction, I could read the story written on the young face. He was clearly living with Down’s syndrome.

I didn’t hear the prayer (there was a loud din of people praying by this point), but I assume the Pastor was asking God for a release from Down’s. My heart ached for the little boy. What did he believe about himself? That he was broken? Sick? In need of healing? What would he believe tomorrow when the prayer was not answered to the satisfaction of the grown-ups in his life? Would he beg God to help him have more faith? Would he curse himself for his otherness? What about the young father? Would he wonder what sins of his past had been visited upon his son?

I wondered if the healing that is needed is not for the young boy, but for those of us who view him as “different” or “incomplete”.

I try to accept the different roads our faith takes us down. I try to live with a “generous orthodoxy” and accept that God looks different to different people. But I can’t help but wonder about the collateral damage - people whose lives are tainted by the dark side of faith. Not just their version, but mine. The little boy who will grow up believing God made a mistake or his parents didn’t have enough faith. The old woman in India whose hunger is less important than her salvation. The young man who’s attracted to a person of the wrong gender. The young woman who can't live out her passion and calling to serve as a leader.

Is there an approach to faith that will make a difference for them?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The journey

"Mom, we should go on a picture journey," she said, when we got back from the playground.

"Girl, I like the way you think," I said and grabbed my camera while she hopped on her bike.

As the fading light stretched shadows across the fallen leaves, we journeyed, each doing what we love to do. The bittersweet knowledge that these carefree t-shirt-wearing journeys are slipping away with the seasons lingered with me while I snapped the pictures.

(Full size versions of the pictures available here.)

Monday, October 06, 2008


The lyrics that are playing in the elevator of my mind today are "rainy days and Mondays always get me down". But what if it's a rainy day AND a monday? Sigh.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

1. My bookworm daughter Julie is having her dream come true this afternoon. There was a flood in the school library which ruined lots of books, so this afternoon the librarian is taking her along to Chapters to spend the afternoon picking out $7000 worth of books.

2. While Julie is thrilled with the prospect, Nikki’s comment was “I’d be too distracted to buy books, because Chapters is SO CLOSE to Garage, and Stitches, and all those other cool clothing stores!”

3. Julie promised to pick out some good biographies for her older sister.

4. Nikki found out recently that she gets to go on a French language exchange program, which means she’ll be spending a week in Quebec. I’m excited for her but… Yikes! 2300 kilometres away, for a whole week! Gulp.

5. When I asked if she wouldn’t be just a little nervous about spending a week with a family she doesn’t know, she practically scoffed at me when she said “No!”

6. My risk-averse daughter is growing up and getting bold.

7. Maddie will be going for surgery soon (tubes in her ears). I don’t like to watch the tears well up in her eyes every time someone says the word “surgery”.

8. I spent about an hour last night flipping channels between the American debate and the Canadian debate. I’ll venture a guess that most of you south of the border didn’t even know we were HAVING a debate, let alone an election. (No offense meant or taken – it’s just interesting how much more fascinated we – or at least our media - tend to be with you than vice versa.)

9. The American debate was more interesting, but the Canadian debate had its moments.

10. Sometimes I wish there were a better alternative than partisan politics. I get sick of everyone having to prove how right their party is and, more frustratingly, how wrong everyone else is.

11. Why do we put up with worse behavior (name-calling, lying, passive aggressive jabs) from our politicians than we do from kindergarten kids?

12. When I hear about leaders slashing arts programs in favour of bolstering the economy, it seems to me it’s a little like a doctor deciding to cut out a heart in favour of the muscles.

13. I am so uninspired by any of our leadership candidates this time around, although I found Elizabeth May a little intriguing last night. (Ha! I’m picturing my big brother chuckling when he reads this and considers his tree-hugging little sister voting Green. Though I didn’t say that’s what I would vote, just that I liked some of the things she said.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Since I'm on a multimedia kick...

If you're interested in seeing a shortened version of the film I produced about the trip to India and Bangladesh (with stories of several of the people we met there), here's a link. Watch for my favourite tiny clip - just before the end, I'm walking away from the camera hand-in-hand with Kabita Arang, a lovely young schoolteacher on one of the Sundarban Islands. We bonded almost instantly, and though we only spent a few hours together, we both got a little emotional when we parted ways. My last sight of her was when she was standing on the dock waving, with tears streaming down her face, as our boat pulled away.