Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Benjaminugget

For a special holiday treat, I brought home a big box of Fruit Loops for the kids.  (Oh, who am I kidding.  Also for me.)  This morning as Benjamin ate and pondered his bowl of rainbow delight, he asked me:

"Where do they get Fruit Loops?"
"From the store." I replied.
"I mean, how do they get them?"
"You mean how do they make Fruit Loops?"
"Yes.  Do they catch a parrot?"
"Because of the picture of the bird on the box?" I ask, suppressing a smile.
"No.  Because they are made of many colours, just like a parrot.  Do they catch a parrot and cut it open and cut it up and make Fruit Loops?"

Monday, 22 December 2014

The musical breaking point

I love music.  I love hearing it, making it, being a part of it. Christmastime is a particularly busy time for me as a musician.  There are always recitals and concerts and cantatas and programs to write, lead, play, and participate in.  For as long as I can remember I have been asked to share my musical abilities at this time of year.

This past Sunday was no different.  Our Sunday church Christmas program was coming together a little last minute, and I was asked if I would contribute in a few ways.  I had two choir songs for which I was the pianist, and then I offered to play the violin in a piano/violin/vocal number.  This is actually a scaled back involvement for me, as I'm usually writing and coordinating, as well as playing.  But we have an unusual amount of extraordinary musical talent in our congregation, which not only eases the load but also creates beautiful opportunities to work with other musicians.

8:45 am, Sunday morning, I got a phone call.  Our organist was ill and wouldn't be able to play.  Would I mind?  No, I offered, of course not.  The Christmas hymns are familiar enough I can jump in.  Oh, and there is also a group number, a song the young women (ages 12-18) are singing, and would I accompany them also?  I tensed a little; I had not heard the song and had no idea what I was getting myself into.  But I know how often these girls practice, and to not sing would be heartbreaking.  I agreed, with more than a little trepidation.  I had choir practice at 9am, but if we ended at 9:45 and I excused myself from the prelude choir, I could run through the song once because tuning up the violin and getting all my music in order...

Then choir ran long.  Right smack up to 10am when the service was ready to start.  And since I was now on the organ for the congregation hymns, I couldn't slip out during the announcements and church business to get ready.  I scanned the music, played a couple passages and prayed I had the right feel and tempo of the piece.  Then I apologized to the Bishop as I slipped out to get my instruments and music, promising to return soon and hoping that would ease the panic look in his eyes.

Go time.

I usually find my groove in these kinds of presentations, moving between songs, taking a moment to reorient myself to the next performance and then jumping in.  But I have discovered that I have a limit, and 7 out of 9 numbers was it.  Every time I sat down in front of a piece of music, I felt my head spinning, unsure of the key, the time, the notes.  My finger memory failed.  The organ sound was getting lost in the crowd, I was standing holding my violin and still thinking about the piano.

The young women ascended to the choir seats.  My sight reading number.  I started in, maybe a little fast, but the girls' voices blended in nicely.  Not bad.  Thank goodness sight reading is my forte, and very few people would notice my lack of technical precision.

A congregation song was announced, which would start with the first verse on flute.  I sat at the organ, my friend at the piano, the flutist behind me.  Am I playing?  The piano?  For a few drawn out seconds I realized we had never talked about how this piece would go.  I was filling in for the organist and had no idea what the plan had been.  It seemed the flutist nodded to me, so I started.  She started.  Then after a line the pianist came in.  And there we were, on the stand, in front of 200 people, music improvisation.  I've heard it was beautiful, but in my muddled frame of mind it was slightly terrifying.

In the end, people seemed to love it, but as a musician I was frazzled.  I have never considered that there is a limit to the number of pieces I can perform; I've never hit it before.  But Sunday, I finally did. It was an interesting and unique musical experience.  If faced with it again, of course I would jump in to help a friend in need.  But at least I will be aware of my own limitations and try to take an extra minute here and there in the program to reorient myself more fully.  A little performance fermata.


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Calebites

On the family cat:

"I was just having a little talk with Cleo (our cat). We even put our hands together for a bit. I was thinking about how she's been separated from her family for twelve years now, so that she can be with us, and how that is a little sad for her."

***

On music:

"I want to do something that makes other people happy, so I'm thinking of starting a band.  I think I should play drums, because I can always find the beat of any song.  Then maybe I'll ask Evelyn or Charlotte to play piano, Benjamin to sing, and Mom to play electric guitar.

"I already auditioned Ben.  I had him sing "O Canada" since he knows that song well.  I listened to each line, and then when he got to the end I asked him to do the last bit again, but really try to belt out the last note, but without oversinging it.  That's the real key to a good singer.

"After I auditioned everyone, I would get everyone together and ask each person to play a little bit on their instrument.  I would listen to each person's style, and whatever is the centre core, that would be our sound.

"We would have to practice a lot, and then we could put on a concert.  I'm thinking that for the first few concerts we would charge a dollar a person, which would mean we each get 25 cents from every ticket.  I think we could get about 75 people out to our first concert.  Then when we are more popular, because these people tell others about us, we could up our price to $4 a ticket so we each make $1 per ticket.

"Do you have to buy a stadium or rent one?  Once we are big enough, we could rent out a place to play, like one of the big churches in town.  And we might have to play two or three nights in a row if there were lots of people who wanted to see us.

"Once we were big enough then we could record an album.  But only once we know there are enough people who want to buy it so we can make the money back that we have to pay to the recording people.

"You know what is the best about this?  It's work, but it also is something I love.  Not everyone gets to do something they love for work.  I get to make money, be happy, and make others happy.  That's a pretty good life."

Friday, 12 December 2014

The violin

I think I have found the answer to why I have yearned for the violin all these years.  Every since I can recall, I wanted to learn to play the violin.  From when I first came to music through the piano, then to clarinet (because we already owned one) to the guitar (because it was my father's) to the flute (because a friend had one to loan me), music emerged from me in new and different ways.

The piano was an extension of my own extremities.  I pounded the keys like a percussion instrument, and then caressed a gentle song from its strings.  I learned expression, to feel and move over its length.

The clarinet brought me to the group, joined my solo voice with others to hear what it was to evoke  single chord that echoed above us.  Harmony like that can only be achieved with different voices drawn together to a magnetic centre, clinging to each other in perfect unison.

The guitar touched my imagination as I sat on the deck in sunset glow and murmured a poem while pulling out some humble chords.  It was tactile in a new way and altered the very beat of my heart to pulse in time with the rhythm.

The flute was beauty.  I found melody and song, sweet tones and wistful tunes.  It was a feature, something to stand out and above, to call out to the heart and gladden.

But when I pulled the bow down the strings of my violin, I pulled something out of my soul.  The timbre of the vibration was an echo of my own voice.  A happy tune was happy only because I fed it with my own happiness.  A mournful song was stoked with my own heartache.  34 years of living, 34 years of life, and each note on the violin reached deep within me to pull out an emotion I have grown in my own heart.

I can hardly tear myself from this near-to-living thing, because with it in my hands I am living a hundred lives.  I am almost timid to touch it, knowing the depth of an artist's emotions and the danger of subjecting myself to so much in so short a time.  To play one song, then the next, to ride a joyous high and then descend to darkness, to rise and fall within minutes of each other, I am fearful of the drug of music.  And yet I cannot pull away from this supernatural language any more than I could cease to communicate in my native tongue.

Monday, 1 December 2014

A History of God

CBC Radio steered me toward British author Karen Armstrong, and subsequently toward a documentary based on her book "A History of God."  It has been illuminating, especially in light of my last blog entry.  As Armstrong traces the history, unfolding and evolving human understanding of God, I was astonished that this phenomenon is even possible.  Because, in fact, an understanding of God is a personal one.  Faith cannot be passed from one person to the next, one generation to the next.  Faith can only be attained on an individual level, and as such always starts from zero.

I am intrigued by Armstrong's idea of Monotheism, rather than Christianity or Judaism or Islam.  The notion that any monotheistic faith, and even many of the polytheistic faiths that assert a high god, or god of gods, come from one original truth of a Supreme being.  Each religion asserts doctrine, but is that doctrine really just a collection of current understanding, based on history, culture, and experience? Are we confusing doctrine with what is actually ritual?  Even tracing the evolution of God through the bible, we can see how different generations related to God differently, worshiped differently, and therefore understood differently.

James and I had a conversation about a recent movie that explored a "fifth dimension."  I asserted that to even discuss the idea was useless, because it involved the absence of time.  The human mind is bound by time, and cannot contemplate existence not bound by its parameters.  Even our discussions on the absence of time (paradoxically) dissect it in relation to it (by saying "the absence of time" you are using time in its very definition.)  Every method James started to use to try and convey the concept of a dimension without time had some start, some end, some movement from A to B, one thought following another, the mind focussing on one thing then the next: all of these implying existing chronologically.  And so the conversation was shut down.  There was no way a time-bound mind could truly understand what it is to exist without time.

In the same way, I see that for a finite mind to understand the infinite is futile.  We have constructed ways to relate to God only in relation to our finite experience: as the one who created us, as the one who gives us instruction for life, as the one who inspires us to good.  But these again are simply ways to relate to God, not to explain or understand him.  Everything God has given us, through word or revelation, is a small attempt to give enlightenment (or appeasement) to humanity, a temporary morsel to get us through to the eternities.

"We are reaching for the future
We are reaching for the past
And no matter what we have we reach for more
We are desperate to discover
What is just beyond our grasp
But maybe that's what heaven is for."

- Hilary Weeks

Thursday, 20 November 2014

A faith journey is a lonely one


Every Tuesday I get together with a few good friends and we relate scriptural ideas to motherhood and being a woman.  Every Thursday I attend an interfaith bible study, a different group of eight women each year.  Every Sunday I oversee the teaching of seventy-five children.  Every day I teach my children to read from the scriptures and pray.

My faith life is filled with people.  But a faith journey is one you take alone.

I don't know what made me come to this realization this morning.  The only difference I suppose was an extra ten minutes.  I was already in the car and so I headed up to the bible study early.  Someone was already in the child care room, which is unusual.  Juliette ran on in without a second thought, also unusual.  My table was empty.  I sat down, opened my bible to Hebrews 11, and prayed each verse aloud.

Father, help me understand the power of faith, by which you framed the worlds.  Help me see that if faith can create this world, it can work the smaller things in my life.

Verse by verse.  A Hall of Faith.

Give me the faith I need to go out into the wilderness to follow where you call me, even when I don't know where I'm going.  Keep the blessing of my inheritance in the front of my mind, so that I know toward what I am travelling.

Verse by verse, 40 verses.  (40.  A significant number in the Hebrew culture  A number that signifies a large number, approximate number, like umpteen.)  Umpteen verses on examples of faith.  Lives of the past, life circumstances.  Nothing easy, only trials that seem soul crushing to endure.  Except that it had the opposite effect: it didn't crush their faith, but fortified it.

Remind me of the better country, the Heavenly city, prepared for me.  Remind me that my divine nature is stronger and older than my physical nature.

I come upon a list, a list that signifies the writer must move along, cannot touch on every single example of firmly built faith given us in the pages of the Old Testament.  I can feel the passion and faith bleeding from the ink on my page.  Here is a writer, a man, whose desire to build other's faith comes across as near desperation.  "Please!" he begs.  "You must have faith!  If nothing else you must have faith!"

subdued kingdoms
wrought righteousness
obtained promises
stopped the mouths of lions
quenched the violence of fire
escaped the edge of the sword
out of weakness made strong
valiant in fight
dead raised
tortured
cruelty and scourgings
bonds and imprisonment
stoned and beaten
tempted
killed
wanderers
destitute, afflicted, tormented

And what is my fight compared to these?  I pause and struggle to find personal meaning in such trials.  Instead, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude.

And suddenly buoyed.

The apostle Paul's fervour is catching.

I catch my breath.

My friends have arrived.  I have been moved and they sit down with their books and coffees as though the Spirit had not just breathed over the table.  I look around at these women: we have studied, learned, shared, cried, and prayed together.  We have been vulnerable because of the newness of friendship.  We have journeyed together in friendship, and yet I come to realize that that is not the same as a journey of faith.

There are not earthly words to describe my understanding, my faith.  At one time I would have chalked it up to an inability to gather the words, but now I am more likely to attribute it to the touching of heavenly and earthly realms.  It is simply a knowing.

I don't think it is possible to relate one's faith completely.  There are too many facets, too many angles, too many emotions involved.  So many, in fact, that nothing is linear.  It is the culmination of it all, doubts included.  It is a breath, a cloud, something settling over you, seeping through your pores and simply becoming you.  It cannot be expressed, hence the loneliness of the experience.  Even for all the words that Paul penned, I can feel the desperation of inadequacy.  Perhaps the best we can hope for is to inspire someone to take a step in a similar direction.

While I wander in deserts, in mountains, in dens and caves, build my faith, so that even if I don't see the blessing right now, I can know that God has something better in store.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The other benefits

We have a one income family.  That means that right now, James is working at a job outside the home, and I am staying at home to raise our children.  There are many, many reasons we have chosen this course for our family.  There are benefits and downfalls which we weighed in making our decision.  None of the reasons had anything to do specifically with a "career" but were instead about "providing": we have a vision of what kind of life we provide to our children, and our decision reflects those desires.

I have to say that the following two reasons have come to light more recently through some readings, and neither were ones that I had considered before.  They are more about how what the other person is doing benefits me.  Usually my arguments are about what I am doing and why it is good for my children.  But I hadn't considered how what I am doing is good for my husband (and vice versa.)  The benefits of his job, for me, and my job for him.

One:
My husband's primary focus is providing financially for our family.  That means most of his days are spent out of our home, running his business.  He is responsible for having a job, keeping that job, and providing for our family the necessities of our physical lives: shelter, food, clothing.  We are blessed to also have a bit of an abundance that also allows for some wants.  Because of my job (staying at home) he is able to focus his attention on his.  If the kids are sick, I am home.  He doesn't have to worry about getting time off work, rushing back from the city to pick someone up from school, or even exposing himself to the illness and risk getting sick himself.  When he comes home from work, he doesn't face more hours of house work, meal prep, cleaning, tidying.  Those hours he was at his job, I was at work keeping things in order at home.  While we do work as a team once he gets in, he doesn't have to worry that we are both pulling in at 6pm and still have to face laundry and dinner and homework.  If we need to schedule a repair person, he doesn't need to be home "between the hours of 12pm and 6pm" waiting.  Part of my job is that I'm already here.  Because of my job at home, he can rest assured that things are running relatively smoothly, the details are taken care of, and he can focus his attention entirely on his work.

Two:
My primary focus is providing a home setting for our family.  I take care of the daily house work, the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking.  I take care of getting the kids ready and out the door, helping with homework, and general instruction in helping the kids learn and grow at home.  Because of my husband's job (providing financially) I can focus my attention on our children.  If one of them is sick, I can be the nurse.  If one of them has a hard day, I can sit and listen without the cloud of outside work hanging over me.  My husband's job gives me the gift of time. If I need to think clearly and ponder over an issue with a child, I can take the time.  If I need to spend some extra one-on-one time teaching a specific principle, moral or lesson to a child, I can take the time.  If we need to celebrate a child "just because" or attend a school concert or provide support for a daytime event, I can do it without any hassle.  As a mother, my primary role is to nurture my family, and nurturing takes unclouded time.  Because of my husband's job in providing financially, I can focus on the nurturing of my family.

Family dynamics are different in every house you enter, and how mothers and fathers are providing for their children changes from family to family, and even from year to year within the same family.  I'm so grateful that we are able to have the kind of setup we desire.  I'm appreciating it a little more today.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Home

For a short while, we were in a flurry to sell our home and buy another.  It was not specifically on our radar, but the seemingly "perfect" home came on the market, and after two years of perusing and finding exactly zero homes to our liking and budget, we thought we would jump.

Our home was not ready to go.  Four small kids and two adults in 1000 square feet means that we are packed in pretty tight.  And said small children do not leave a pretty home in perfect open house condition.  By the time we were ready to go, the other house was gone.  (I mean, literally.  Our agent was preparing our offer when we got word it was sold.)

I thought I would feel loss, but instead I feel peace.  I have suddenly seen what a beautiful blessing our home is.  A few articles about tiny homes and simple living have crossed my computer in the last couple of days and now I realize that we don't need more space.  We have that which we need and a little extra.  I can be happy here.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Silence

Today I am reflecting on silence.

I was asked this question: when someone is silent, what do you usually assume is the reason?  The offerings were anger, busyness, frustration, apathy.  I made my own box: desire.  If someone I know is quiet, then I assume they just want a little quiet.  This, I realized, stems from my own relationship with silence.

I crave silence because there just isn't very much of it in my world today.  The last nine years I have had (at least) a child under the age of two home with me.  Given that all four of my children love to be around people and love to talk, and that all four were terrible night sleepers, that left almost zero quiet time in my house.  Add to that the noise of media and the general loudness of town life.  It's no wonder that I yearn for a little country cabin in the woods, or that I love to shovel snow during a late night snowstorm when you can actually hear the sound of silence echoing around you.

I crave silence because I am a musician.  That seems counter-intuitive, but for me, when music is playing, it leaps to the front of my brain and crowds out anything else.  I am so connected with music that I can't read or study or even have a conversation with "background" music.  Music is never background for me, it always becomes the foreground.

I crave silence because I am socially awkward with any situation other than a small gathering of very intimate friends.  If I am giving an acquaintance a ride home, I will probably sit in silence as I drive.  If I am sitting next to someone at an event, I will let the conversation fall off and not struggle to fill in the gap.  There was a time when I worried about my inability to do "small talk" but now, I just embrace the silence.

And so, if you are silent, I rarely assume there is something wrong.  I assume you, too, are yearning for a little peace, a little space, a little time to yourself.  (So please do not use silence in place of communication if there is something wrong!)



One day I will have that little cabin in the woods.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Calebite

Our Caleb is seven.  I should probably write about how I can't believe he is already seven, where has the time gone, wasn't it just yesterday he was born?  But the truth is, he is an old soul.  What I really say to myself is "is he only seven?"  In fact there are times when I have to remind myself of that, as I sometimes put too high expectations on him.  He and Colin are the best of friends, and more often than not I see the two of them as eight or nine years old.

Caleb brings such joy to our home, smiles to our lips and amazement to our lives.  He lives his life with a running commentary in his head, and usually verbalizes it all day long.  He get the play-by-play, the review, the commentary, and the personal essay.

Caleb is smart as a whip and loves to learn.  Things come easy to him; new things snap into place very quickly in his mind.  He has that innate sense of logic that quickly scans a problem and then works it into a solution.  He works to make sense of something and then it sticks in his brain permanently.

Caleb is also incredibly social.  He does not search out to be the leader, but others flock to follow what he is doing.  I think it's an uncommon form of leadership in that sense.  He isn't looking to have everyone do what he is doing, or wanting to control the situation.  He simply does what he wants with such passion and joy that others see that it is a good road to walk.

Caleb, we are loving the dynamic you add to our family.  And that grin!  It says "life is good" and shines on everyone you meet.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Chosen

Among a small group of women, we were discussing the passage of scripture where the apostles of the New Testament gather to replace the former apostle Judas.  Two names are put forward.  After prayer and deliberation, they cast their lots and one was chosen.  And one was not.

We talked about this idea, the idea of being chosen for one path or another.  Imagine the human emotion involved: anticipation, excitement, passion.  There was probably humility, given the spiritual maturity needed to fulfill such a position, but I don't think we can discount that both men wanted to work in such a profound way.

One was chosen, one was not.  For that path.  It can be hard to realize that we are all chosen for our specific paths.  Sometimes we look longingly down another road, yearning to follow a dream not matched to our life.  Maybe we know deep inside we are not meant to, maybe life circumstances prevent it.  Either way, it can feel like a dream that slipped through our fingers.

I think about Matthias, chosen as an apostle of Jesus.  One moment inspired by the impact of such a role, the next overwhelmed by what it actually means to step into it.  I think about Barsabus, walking down a path toward a calling, only to have the gate shut.  One moment tingling with anticipation and the next left wondering what now? what next?

That's what is so amazing about our lives: the "next."  It is not just the roads we walk that shape our lives, but also the roads we don't take.  I heard of a man in the next town, yearning to be a father.  His beautiful daughter was born with multiple severe disabilities.  No facilities existed to help his daughter with the many physical needs she had.  He turned a small cottage on his farm into a small hospital for her, fitted with the equipment necessary.  He learned and trained and cared for her until her frail body gave out at three years old.  Standing in the grand farmhouse, he no longer saw his path as a farmer and a father, but as a life-giver to others facing similar struggles.  That grand farmhouse was turned into home for 16 children with multiple severe disabilities whose needs outweigh their parents' ability to provide.  Nurses are on staff, sometimes one-on-one.  Medicine, equipment, everything these children need.  That first father now sees his path as an advocate and fundraiser for these few families whose lives look nothing like what they expected at the first twinge of their baby's conception.

We never know what might be next for us.  We never know what we are chosen for.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

In between

I sure feel in between right now.  I was sitting here, thinking about how I haven't written much lately, and that which I have written has been flighty and poor quality.  My churning thoughts seemed to be jammed up in my head and my days are flipping by without much time to sit at a computer.

All this seems to reflect my state of being in between.  In between what, I can't seem to articulate.  Things are moving as usual, the schedule is settled, I read and study and discuss and meet with friends. There are no fractured relationships.  And yet I feel a little like I'm drifting between two somethings.

Maybe in a few days or weeks, or heaven forbid, even months, something will become clear.  Maybe my hindsight will catch whatever shift I seem to be making inside, emotional, spiritual, physical.  For now I guess I'll just keep on trucking and see where this journey takes me.  Experience has proven that it's always exciting.

Student concert

I've had 6 violin lessons now.  This week my instructor told me to start choosing a Christmas song for the concert our music studio has.  I haven't had to play at a student concert in more than two decades.  But I'm feeling all the same old nerves I had back then.  Some things never change.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Getting up a little higher

You know that old idea that sometimes you need to get up a little higher to see the true state of something?  That in the midst of a mess that is piling up high you need to get higher to get perspective.  Yeah, that's where I feel today.

After our first experience buying a home, I gained a firm testimony that God's hand is in the details.  I knew this was going to be an area of my life that I could fully put my trust in him to lead me down the right path.  I wasn't going to have to worry about following my heart the wrong way.  When the right house and the right time intersect, then the obstacles will just disappear.

So here we find ourselves, very, very suddenly, considering a move.  (Anyone else hate how such a major decision and purchase are done so quickly?  I mean, I wouldn't even buy a toaster without researching, looking, price comparing, waiting, looking for a sale, and then buying it.  A house you see twice and then jump into the biggest debt you'll carry in your life!)  As soon as we felt impressed to go forward with investigating it, obstacles popped up, and then were just as quickly stripped away.  Owning a business and getting a mortgage?  Bidding against a friend?  Needing to offer firm instead of conditional on the sale of our home?  Boom, boom, boom, everything fell away.

The only disadvantage of waiting for the right house is that our house is not ready to go on the market.  And due to some roof damage last winter, there is a good chance that the renovations already in the works might not be done in time to get our house sold before the other house is gone.

With a different world view, this might have sent me into a spiral of panic or depression or stress.  And yet, I believe there is a plan.  And my experience in getting up a little higher is coming to good use now.  Last night something popped in my mind, something that if we don't move now, but want to move next year, might have made it extremely difficult to do.  Something that is easy to fix now, but would have been impossible to fix later.  So I find myself saying to James "hey, we should make sure we do this if we decide not to move now."

Wow.  I really love the idea of this house now, and if this renovation obstacle melts away also then I have no doubt this is the right path.  But I take comfort in knowing that maybe this experience wasn't about buying this house but instead about buying a different house at a different time.

I'm liking this perspective thing.  It makes life so much more peaceful.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Expanding

I meet with a most fantastic group of women on Tuesday mornings.  We've been meeting just over a year now.  We meet with a purpose, doing some form of spiritual study together during the week and then getting together to talk it through.

My mind is expanding.

Every single week we talk through hard things, fun things, life things.  We lay it all out on the table, even when we are dancing around actual terms due to the wandering children around us.  These are moments when we move past talking about diapers and teachers and last weekend's plans.  These are moments when we want to talk more to learn more, to wrestle and struggle with ourselves during the week and then grow a little under the light of friendship.

I think if I studied on my own, I wouldn't grow as much, not being forced to acknowledge and accept realities out loud.  There is something about having to form an opinion, delicately choose words, and then send it out into the world that makes you do more than gloss over pat questions.  We put our ideas out there, our worries and concerns and questions, and then turn them over and over and over again in our hands, smoothing out the rough edges, turning them into precious gems.

These days slip by so fast I can clearly see the trap of Time, ticking seconds forward whether they are filled productively or not.  I have spent 34 years on this earth so far, and I have changed so much already.  Yet I can see there is more, much more, to be done.  I am not one to live nostalgic for times gone by.  I love and live for these days right now, but I want to roll forward, always forward, into the future.  I don't look back at who I was, but I do want to make sure that I'm not standing still.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Benjaminugget

Getting ready to make the drive to my grandmother's for Thanksgiving, Benjamin decided he wanted to make a card for his Papa.  First, he asked me how to spell Papa.  Then he proceeded to meticulously write out a very long letter.

Upon finishing, he proudly presented me with his work.  There were no pictures, as per usual, just carefully crafted letters and words and sentences.  Unable to decipher anything, I inquired:

"What does it say?"
"How should I know?" he replied.  "I can't read."

Friday, 10 October 2014

Friends

So I was thinking about a friend the other day who lives far enough away that we don't usually get to see each other.  Through the invention of blogging, we get to look into each other's lives often, but most of our correspondence is limited to that.  I have always a feeling if we lived closer we would be good friends, swapping books and ideas, challenging ideas and notions, stretching each other to grow, and sharing evenings of making music.

As I was thinking about this particular friend, my mind drifted to another friend I've made in the past year, and how much we love to sit in each other's company.  We swap books and ideas, challenge ideas and notions, make music...

It suddenly occurred to me that these two friends were very similar.  And as I thought about it more...they both have large families, both homeschool, both have very strong ideas, both have musical families and husbands, and both even have husbands who are psychiatrists!

Really, the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how similar these two wonderful women are.  I felt blessed to have one in my life on a weekly basis, and a little more melancholy that the other is so far away...

I am grateful for friends from all walks of life.  Really, most of my friends are so different it might be a strange group if I gathered them all together.  But how funny it is to realize the characteristics of two women that I'm obviously drawn toward.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Family photos

Another year, another round of family photos.  The coordination of outfits (my very least favourite part, but we nailed it this year!) and the styling of hair (mine) and then climbing through a wire fence to get to a small spot of trees and grass that reaches to your waist.  I always opt for golden hour, just before the sun sets.  Then we spend 30 minutes trying to keep everyone in order and looking at the camera and smiling without looking strange and please, please, please, let there be one, just one, picture that is usable.

34 years I've been doing this now, and for all the trouble I love that we have a family photo for every single year.  Now off to make prints and create calendars and Christmas cards and all the lovely things you do with lovely photos.

But more than my own photos, I love that I've started taking photos for some other families.  Each year I take out my sister with her family, and my sister-in-law and her family and get some cute shots of their cute kids (and the adults as well!)  I love flipping through the shots when I get home to see what I've got.  This year I had a great one of my sister's nephew (expanding my client list this year) who was adorable, and a fantastic series of my niece who gives a different expression in every single shot.  Gotta love the joie de vie that she exudes!





Friday, 3 October 2014

Juliettables

Juliette: Mommy, can I sit in my cock-a-doodle-do chair?
Mom: Your what? You mean your booster chair?

(Once I said it out loud, I realized she thought it was a "rooster" chair!)

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Let's talk about it

Last night James and I engaged in a good long debate.  We talked about unions and private versus public sectors.  We went over the roles of women and men in society.  We delved into job circumstances and the state of education.  One topic meandered into another into another, morphing and evolving in exactly the beautiful way that debates occur.

I loved every second.  My mind was racing, my thoughts ebbing and flowing, conceding here and digging my feet in there.  It was almost 11pm when I stopped short.

"Are you angry?" I know I don't often pick up on small nuances in conversation, so I was abruptly halting an activity I was thoroughly enjoying.  Suddenly I wasn't sure if James was enjoying it nearly as much as I was.

"Yes! I have to spend all day in my job arguing and now I've been sitting here the last two hours arguing with you."

Whoa.  My eyes were opened and I saw it all in a way I hadn't before.  You see, I love to debate, and when I debate it is very separate from any personal connection.  I can just as hotly debate a position I completely disagree about as I can something I am passionately for.  There is nothing personal in it for me at all.  What I didn't connect is that James, as someone who is much more emotionally connected to life, felt each counterpoint as an attack.  I don't think he disengages about anything (which is a huge character benefit.  I often find myself at odds with a situation or a person because I am much less empathetic.)

What a difference between our two personalities. Here it was, 11pm, and I was feeling exhilarated, high, pumped, excited.  But James was feeling attacked, drained, and exhausted.  What I saw as an evening passed in an exchange and exploration of abstract ideas, he saw as a personal, frontal attack against his own convictions.

I apologized for having missed the social cue (again.)  Then I thanked him profusely for spending an evening doing something I enjoy, even if he just needed to kick back and relax.  I think debating and exploring and challenging ideas and world views is probably one of my favourite pastimes.  And since in reality I spend my days debating the merits of bedtime and the reality of peeing into the toilet bowl and explaining why we can't go around licking the walls, I usually don't have much opportunity to interact in adult conversation.  I sorely miss that.

It was a great evening (for me,) but I will have to remember to equate it with watching science-fiction movies...while I would do it now and then because James likes it, I don't want to spend every night doing that.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Benjaminugget

This past Monday we had a special Family Home Evening to celebrate Benjamin.

Ben's been having a hard start to the school year.  Gratefully, we've heard nothing back from the school; the secretary is a friend of mine and she said Ben seems fine, and his teacher hasn't contacted us about any issues in class.  However, every morning he is crying that he doesn't want to go, and every afternoon he gets off the bus angry and tired and complaining about the day.  He says there is nothing good or fun about school and that he has no friends.

He's also had a hard time at home with us and his siblings.  He teases everyone mercilessly, until someone is either crying or gets their block knocked out.  He defies James and me at every turn and then dissolves in whining and crying when we discipline.  We have been doing all we can to make things pleasant for him, but we seem to be at an impasse.

So we decided to celebrate Ben.  When he came home, he asked to have a friend over, which then turned into an invite to that friend's house.  I dropped him off, and then we got to work.  We made a big banner with his name to hang in the kitchen.  We each wrote ten things we love about Benjamin.  We picked up his favourite foods for dinner (pizza, chocolate milk and sprinkle donuts.) After I picked him up and he walked through the door, James and the kids were all there to yell "surprise Ben!" and his face just lit up.  After dinner we opened Family Home Evening with his favourite church song (Scripture Power) which quickly became a singing/dancing event.  Then we all read our letters to him.  Finally, we ended with his choice of activity: a video game.  He was flying high.

The next morning brought no change in the previous attitude, but I am clutching dearly to the concept of making deposits into his emotional bank account: even when the negativity drains, the account isn't empty because we are depositing positivity into it on a regular basis.

I'm going to call it a phase.  And give him six months to get over it.  (Just kidding.)

Monday, 22 September 2014

Calebite

Colin's tryout for rep soccer is this Saturday.  He's super excited, I'm super excited, but we've also been trying to temper ourselves with the reality that it is a tryout.  Now, tryouts and auditions were nerve-wracking enough when I was a kid and doing them myself.  But it is a whole other level when it is your child.  The nerves are tied to my own experience and now also to having to watch from the sidelines, unable to really do anything at all.

So as we spoke yesterday about how it will be fun to be part of the team, but that we just don't know if he'll make it, I made a point of saying that he should maybe take this week and practice some drills in the backyard after school: passing, dribbling, shooting on the net, accuracy, teamwork.  Colin nodded with enthusiasm and commitment.

But it was Caleb's reaction that really got me.  Caleb jumped right in and said that he would work with Colin to get him ready for the tryout.  He said he could put out obstacles for Colin to dribble the ball around, and then he could stand in net and help Colin with shooting accuracy, and then pass the ball back and forth.  He was so excited.

Then, this morning, I heard quiet shuffling in the boys' room at 6:30am.  Caleb emerged soon after, fully dressed in soccer gear.  He tiptoed into my room to find a comb, because he wanted to be fully ready for school.  Then he went downstairs and got himself breakfast.  By 7am, even before Colin, Caleb was ready.  He headed out the back door and set up the field.  Colin followed soon after, and Caleb coached his older brother for over an hour, right up until they had to run for the bus.

Caleb is too young by at least one year for rep soccer, but his passion and excitement is not one iota less.  Brothers.  Best friends.  Teammates.  Parenting doesn't get better than this.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Drop in

Do you ever drop in to another church's service?  I love the church I attend on Sundays, but over the years I have had many opportunities to branch out and experience other types of Sunday services, and is always love the experience.

As a child I remember attending both the United church service with my grandmother. I remember loving the beautiful gowns of the choir, and how they sang during their processional to the choir benches. I loved when we all stood up to shake hands with the people behind us, and how my grandmother's friends always gushed over her beautiful grandchildren. I loved when the minister would invite the children up to sit at beside him on the stairs and he related a story and scripture just for us little ones. I remember the cold beige tiled hall in which we all gathered afterwards. And I adored the deep chimes of the old bells as they swung high above my head.

Now and then, before my grandfather passed away when I was ten, we also attended the Salvation Army service. He was a talented musician and I remember being swept away by the hymns sung out by all the shiny instruments.

When James was first exploring faith and religion, we chose a different church in the neighbourhood each Sunday and sat in in many different types of worship services from all faiths, to hear their different messages and feel the different styles of worship.

Since moving to Orangeville, I've attended a women's bible study at the local Baptist church on Thursday mornings.  I love when they do a Beth Moore study that takes me deeper in scripture than I've ever experienced before. And I have learned more about the true nature of prayer during their half hour prayer circles, helping me to finally move beyond a rote recitation and toward honest conversation.

Currently, on Sundays, I am the primary president, which means I am in charge of the children's ministry.  That means that Sundays, for me, are about helping 75 children under the age of 12 learn and develop their own faith. It's a wonderful calling, but often means I don't get a private, personal way to worship and refill.

On Friday Juliette and I were walking to the park, and as I walked by the towering a United church I noticed that they were holding a new service on Friday evenings, and my heart leapt.  A yearning opened up that I didn't know was there, one to sit quietly in a large space, unknown to the physical bodies around me, where my spirit could commune one on one with my God. Then, around the corner, the Catholic Church's parking lot was full, presumably for a service of some sort, and I longed to veer off the sidewalk and slip into a bench and simply sit privately in the back and soak in God's word.

This is a busy time of life, and having a house full of young children means there aren't moments to slip out to other places to have these needs filled.  But it did open my eyes to a spiritual yearning for a holy place within the walls of my house where I can commune deeper, longer, than I have been lately.









Saturday, 20 September 2014

Soaking it in

One of motherhood's hardest aspects is that it is not a results driven job.  You work and work and work and often don't see any product of your labours, not yet anyway.  Decades down the road we desperately hope to see beautiful, thoughtful, faithful, caring people emerge and fly gracefully from the nest, but the road to that day is long and dirty.  But, every now and then, we are granted a glimpse that affirms our day to day work.

A couple of weeks ago I staged a takeover of Friday night movie night.  I have been long agitated by the intellectual junk food I've allowed my children to consume, rotting their brains out each week.  I have such fond memories of Sunday nights with my family, watching the Wonderful World of Disney, old films with saner pacing and good characters who learn a lesson.  I was done with Spongebob.

Last night I popped on my favourite animated Disney movie: Robin Hood.  Part way through, Caleb turned to me.

"Was this movie written by a Christian?" asked Caleb.
"I don't know.  What makes you say that?" I replied.
"It feels like a whole bunch of scripture stories stitched together."
"Really?"
"Yes, like how the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was written by a Christian and tells stories about Jesus."
"How do you see that in Robin Hood?"
"Well, that seen with in the church with the coin was like the widow's mite, when she gave everything she had. And Robin Hood and Little John sneaking into town to confront the king, and then break out everyone from jail is like Nephi and Sam going back to Jerusalem to get the gold plates."

I smiled to myself.  The stories are sticking!  Every night for almost nine years we have read a scripture story to the kids.  Up until this September we have used several different children's bibles that simplified the language.  In September we started reading from the scripture directly, paraphrasing difficult language ourselves as we go.  But I always wondered how much they were actually taking in.  It's nice to know the stories are sticking!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Game Day

Today I was in line at the rec centre to cancel some lessons, and while I waited scores of twelve year old boys were pouring in, loaded down with hockey equipment, ready for a tournament with teams from across the region.  Inside, my heart quickened a little as I was flooded with memories of game day.

I loved playing on sports teams in my childhood and youth.  I loved walking the school halls in my white shirt and tie, a physical reminder to help us mentally prepare for the game later on.  I loved seeing a fellow teammate in shirt and tie, and the slight nod of a head that knit us together in a common purpose.  I loved the warmup run that got my blood pumping and the tingle in my head as excitement built.  I loved the leave-it-all-on-the-field intensity of running, bumping, making plays and ploughing down the grassy field. I loved the rush of a win, and the heartbreak of loss.

I couldn't help but smile as I watched these boys come in wearing shirts and ties, as I saw a young boy lead his teammate outside for a warmup, as I could almost visibly see the energy coursing through their veins.

Next week Colin tries out for the town's rep soccer team, and I'm so excited.  I was nervous to commit him to one sport for an entire year instead of dabbling in different areas, but I'm so excited for him to experience the intense commitment, friendship, and physical, mental and emotional demands that being part of a sports team offers.  It built character in me in a completely different way than my upbringing, school or church did, in a very positive way.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

I Will Rest in You

Change comes. The earth spins, light turns to dark and back to light again.  The earth tilts, summer sun fades into fall, whips into winter and melts into spring.  The days and seasons and years pass and our bodies grow and regenerate and then fade.

Life is not a straight road, but a wandering path.  There are gentle curves and rolling hills, but there are also sharp turns and mountains and valleys.  I don't think a sheer cliff would scare me as much as a looming hill.  A cliff is abrupt and forces you to figure out what the heck you are going to do about it right now.  Climbing a hill, is about anticipation, both thrilling and scary.  Feeling the gentle tug in my calf muscles, I know that eventually the steep climb will level off and reveal an awesome landscape spread before me.  I know that change is coming.  But all that time to ponder the unknown, mull over the possibilities, wonder which of the permutations (or maybe none of them at all) will unfold before me.

I've had this song on repeat the last three days.  Change is coming, but the only message that floods back to me, that is on repeat in my mind, is the one line on repeat in this song.  I feel like God is taking my face firmly in his hands, staring deep into my eyes and while my body shakes He just keeps repeating the only truth I need to know right now.  That line, over and over, will eventually cut through the human mess I make and fill me with the peace I need to climb without worry.

I will rest in you.
I will rest in you.
I will rest in you.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Less/Love

(I wonder if I'll ever get to the concept of "less," or if it will be a life-long lesson for me.)

Talk less.  Write less.  Think more.

Today I'm thinking on this:

"You can't earn God's love.  You can only turn towards God love." (Ann Voskamp)

I know the "can't earn God's love" part.  I finally fell into that as I fell into motherhood.  But turning towards God's love...that's an active action that I know I haven't fully understood, embraced, and applied.

It'll come.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Juliettables

With the boys all back in school and a moment to devote my efforts to something other than direct interaction with them, I have been contemplating trying to broaden my recipe repertoire for Juliette.  Her diet is most easily administered in fresh fruit and vegetables, all natural hot dogs (groan) and roasted chicken.  I have an oat muffin mix, an oat pancake mix, and a coconut cookie recipe, which, along with plain potato chips, are the only non-natural foods she can consume.  I am bored by looking at her plate of grapes or sliced apples, or roast potatoes or carrots, bananas and applesauce.  I long to give her a little of the food excitement the rest of us experience.  Luckily she is too young and too inexperienced with food to know the difference yet.

Paleo recipes daunt me; so many unusual and unknown ingredients.  I hesitate to put these unusual things on my shopping list, as a cook who likes to decide a menu based on what I've got stocked.  Recipes and grocery lists feel like a straight-jacket to me, stifling food creativity.  My problem is that these unusual foods are unfamiliar and I don't yet have a comfort level to experiment with them, or use leftovers up in another way.  To buy an item, use a quarter of it, and toss the rest feels like a waste of money and resources.

I am also fighting four other people with taste buds that do not tend toward the more exotic flavours.  While they are always willing to try something once, but often genuinely don't like these recipes.  I am reluctant to force a diet change, and yet find the idea of preparing two complete meal exhausting and frankly unmanageable.

I do hope that in this new fall season I might find some soup recipes we can enjoy (I love restaurant soups but have yet to find a store-bought or homemade recipe that I like), and venture further into vegetables beyond the carrots-potatoes-peas-beans I revert to almost exclusively.

Adventures in motherhood, especially when we are stay-at-home mothers, allow for these kinds of work projects with which to pass our days.  Hopefully as Juliette grows she will also mellow enough for this adventure to be ours...outings to farmer's markets and ambles through grocery stores to discover new things together.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Writing

Is there a moment when you realize you're actually a writer?  It's such a strange profession.  It's something I've done my whole life.  Snatches of ideas finding words and bleeding onto paper, in the privacy of my own room. Rarely is there much interaction.  I don't have a publisher or agent, or big paycheques or book signings or tours or releases, the things I associate with being a "real" writer.  I feel as though I'm still at play.

And yet, I wonder if I am on the brink of change.  I do have a few published essays.  I do have a few paycheques for my writing.  I have two scripture studies that, if I put my mind to it, might actually be worth sending along to a publisher.

I had a moment a few weeks back when I was writing a script for a job I had been contracted for.  I had questioned the need for my services, not because I didn't want the work but because I felt the director already had a clear script in mind, and it did not need any dialogue written.  The producer assured me that, to help with production and client services, they wanted a formal script for every project, and would I just write it all out anyway.  And so I took the director's ideas and crafted, sculpted, produced a few pages that conveyed the story.  As I sat back and read the final draft, I smiled and allowed myself a pat on the back.  In fact, what I had created told the story much better than the director's notes.  I had not trusted that with a small gift for writing I could help a client really visualize what they were spending their money on.  I captured the story and vision of a director and gave it a tangible life.  And I realized that there was great validity in what I was doing.

To feel this kind of purpose in our work is necessary to the healthy production of what we do.  I came across this quote today, which has helped me process these thoughts:

"The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away."

I am fortunate to be able to earn a small sum of money as I give away my gift, but what I love about gifts and talents is that it fills us so full that it can't help but pour out, monetarily compensated or not.  To give away that which is within me brings such joy.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Parenting uniqueness

One of my favourite things about parenting is getting to focus on each child individually. I love to really look at them, trying to discern who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what they need and what I can provide for them. This has really been emerging over the last month or so and it has provided much joy.  Nurturing talents and turning weakness into strength are two things I've spent a lot of time in lately.

Colin has a real talent for visual arts.  He loves to sketch (if only he'd do it in the sketch book I bought him instead of on random scrap papers around the house, I might actually have a collection of his work!) last summer I signed him up for art classes with guest professors each week, specialists in their medium.  Unfortunately, I didn't really feel he got out of it what I was hoping. This year, however, his teacher at school studied visual arts and is an artist herself. So instead of signing Colin up for more art classes, I'm hoping to donate some "real" art supplies to the classroom to enable the teacher to go beyond the traditional paint and pencil crayons.

I am finally going to be harnessing Caleb's musical talent. He loves to sit at the piano and pick out music, but even more than that he loves to experiment and improvise with what he has learned. His rhythm and creative understanding of music are amazing to see unfold, and he really needs a good start on the discipline of practicing and a base of music theory. More the that, I think his emotional maturity will be a key that will open doors in musicianship usually locked for children his age. The other day he was weeping in the back of the van, touched by the song "Cats in the Cradle," and he often commenta on the feelings and moods of inanimate things. I have found a friend with whom he will share music lessons (every other week) so that it can be affordable for us.  I am so excited to see what he can do when he gets the rudiments under his belt.

During our camping trips this summer, we discovered Ben has a love for fishing. For a child who never stops moving, and loves to be surrounded by people, I was more than a little surprised by his love of sitting quietly, patiently on the dock for hours, waiting for a rich to bite, or more often just watching other kids with their rods. We only just got a rod for him, (and I'm reluctant to let him out with a sharp hook on his own yet) so most of his interest actually came from watching others. But during our mom and kids camp, he would keep his eye out for anyone heading down to the dock and off he shot after them like a bee. I think this interest will hopefully go hand in hand with some gentle correction of which he is in need. We are trying to help him make good choices when it comes to behaviour toward others. He is in need of a little character training and some one on one time, and I think the lesson might best be absorbed by father and son and a couple of fishing rods.

I still feel that with Juliette we are in the reactive stage. That girl goes a mile a minute and I never feel like I can get ahead. Next week will hopefully be toilet training. (Can I possibly be at the end of my diaper days?) I also feel like I have a ways to go to try and get her allergies under control. Two weekends in a row we've gone out of town without packing any allergy medication (which necessitated midnight runs to the drug store.)  But at least we now have a game plan when she does have a reaction, and she is really coming along in her understanding of the pains she feels and that many foods she just can't have.  For my own part I feel like I need to expand the foods I have on hand for her (I feel so guilty with the amount of natural hot dogs she eats.). Baby steps, though, and a little grace for myself as this is something totally new for us.











Friday, 5 September 2014

Juliettables

Juliette has the most adorable head full of ringlets.  They just naturally fall that way.  Even after 4 days of camping, lake water, and sleeping in a sleeping bag, they curled in the cutest way.  People often ask if I curl them with an iron.  Seriously - who has that kind of time?  She's just lucky that way.

***

My kids have mispronounced their fair share of words over the years, but I think Juliette's latest might be my favourite: flip flops are "plop plops."

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Far From the Tree

I am reading the most fascinating book right now.  It might hurt my wrists to hold it upright (it's that heavy!) but I'm devouring each and every page with a hunger I didn't know was in me.

Far From the Tree (Andrew Solomon) is subtitled "Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity."  With years of meticulous and varied research, Solomon has tracked families that are affected by ten different challenges: deaf, dwarfs, Down Syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, prodigies, rape, crime, transgender.  The book opens with a chapter called "Son" and closes with a chapter called "Father." The nucleus of the book is that the old expression "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" is commonly-known; what happens when your child has a condition so foreign to you that he seems to have fallen "far from the tree?" If you have had the fortune of spending an hour or two with me on a lazy day, I've probably chewed your ear off about his theories on identity.  While I may not agree with anything, my brain cannot help but be pushed by his thoughts.

I'm currently on the third chapter, autism. With the growing number of diagnoses of autism, one can't help but be touched by it.  I corresponded online with a young mother who has three boys and a girl, all exactly the same ages as mine.  We also both miscarried within weeks of each other.  We first became acquainted when she only had a two year old boy and a baby.  I watched as all three of her boys were eventually diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  I also have an old friend from high school who I convinced of the merits of our town and who moved here from the city a few years back.  I vividly recall the mom and baby class we were in together as she tentatively expressed concern about her son's development. I feel a degree of guilt and shame that I brushed it off so casually, as so many people and doctors do.  Her son has since been diagnosed with autism and this mother has become the greatest advocate for her child I have ever seen.

What is most fascinating for me, about autism, is the idea that it is a spectrum disorder, that "fades into normality at one end." In other words, we may not recognize autism until it is a certain way down that road.  There are those of us that function fairly well in society that may have the same genetic mutations (or other cause of autistic tendencies; the cause of autism is completely undetermined as of yet.)

As I have read and heard and seen autism in play, I have often felt an underlying connection, in a very small degree.  One of the key indicators of autism is the inability to function in social relationships or understand social cues.  I often find that I misread or misunderstand tone (it's a common issue that comes up frequently between James and I; he is overly attuned to tone, whereas I rarely hear past the actual words people are using.)  Lately, in the comforts of my own home, I have allowed myself the grace to ask for clarification from James: "Did you mean that or did I miss a level of tone?" The question is genuine, though probably some might find it ridiculous or even condescending.

I also have anxiety in social situations when I am not talking about a subject in depth.  People might say that social anxiety is common enough.  That's fine, but is it perhaps a mild version of what autistic people are experiencing?

I struggle with empathy.  I understand what it is and when it should be felt, but I am often discouraged when I don't find it naturally rising up.  I find myself saying "Here, you should feel sorry about this. This is a time for empathy."  I find myself mimicking the state rather than experiencing it.

My mind tends to process things systematically instead of emotionally. I find it hard to understand when people lash out or let emotions take over when a clear, logical dissection of an issue would likely result in a solution. Again, not uncommon, but perhaps it is the result of a small genetic mutation that, when taken to the extreme, leads to autistic behaviour?

I am no scientist, but I am fascinated with this idea of a spectrum that fades right into normality.  I wonder if the key to unlocking the mysteries of autism lie within those of us whose aberrations are so subtle they would only be thought of as quirks.  Might the comparison of our genetic maps to autistic ones finally reveal some commonality?

These are my ow musings.  If you read non-fiction, I highly recommend this book.  I cannot recall more clear and engaging writing in the genre.  And you might find, like the author did, that diversity is actually what unites us all.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Having positive things in my life

Our wonderful, wonderful "Mommy and Me" camp took place this week - 11 moms and 55 children over three days of camping.  It was glorious.  More to come later, with photos, I hope.  But what has stuck with me more than anything was a nighttime campfire conversation about having positive, uplifting things in our lives that bring joy and happiness into our lives.

The topic began as a discussion on Facebook.  Yay or nay?  Does it connect us to friends or disconnect us from society?  Is it only a waste of time and energy or can it speed up communication?  People fell on both sides.  There were some who had deleted their accounts, others who had deleted and then reinstated them, and others who had used them often and well since signing up.

Personally I use it.  I use it first and foremost to communicate to local friends in a quick and easy way.  "Heading to the park.  Anyone want to join?"  In less than 10 seconds I can send out a mass invite and connect with a couple of friends, without spending long times making phone calls looking for someone both home and free.  Secondly I use it to keep up with the goings on of friends and family who live far away.  I love to rejoice with them in their triumphs and encourage them in their trials.  Beyond that, I just ignore the rest.

But one friend's comment has been sitting with me strongly.  She said that she loves Facebook because her news feed is filled with positive and uplifting messages from people she loves and admires.  When she does log on, she is sure to be greeted with thought-provoking ideas that inspire her.  She explained her method: Facebook allows you to be "friends" with a person (allowing them to contact you, and see what you post) but lets you "unfollow" them which means their posts don't show up in your news feed.  She said that if friends or family members or acquaintances post negative things, or inane videos, or time-wasting quizzes, she "unfollows" that person to remove the posts from her feed.

As soon as she explained all this, I knew in my heart I would go home and do likewise.  While I have friends and people I want to be able to keep in contact with, I don't always love what they post.  I have a weakness for controversy, which never leaves a good taste in my mouth.  Now I can remove the temptation to click on controversial and negative things.

I wonder if someone might think that this is sterilizing my world a little too much.  Do I need to be confronted by things with which I do not agree, so that I don't remove myself too much from the world at large?  Sure, to some extent.  But not on Facebook. I keep up with the real news for that.  From now on, my Facebook will be a lovely place, filled with positive things that inspire and uplift me.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Mothering one

Two weeks until school begins.  I'm excited for the change in our schedule.  I'm excited to have one on one time with Juliette again.  For a long time I thought I was operating at a deficit when I felt overwhelmed by having all four kids at home.  I have good friends I admire very much who homeschool large families (on average about 9 or 10 kids!) and I always felt I was lacking in something that the idea of having all my children home all the time wasn't very appealing.  I have come to realize, however, that we all mother differently.  I mother best when I am one on one.  It's not that I can't handle all four children, it's just that I find it mentally exhausting.  As an introvert, I find the constant barrage of people draining.  I've also come to realize that contrary to most women, I don't multi-task.  Many studies and books talk about how women are multi-taskers and men do one thing at a time.  Well, I'm a one-thing-at-a-time person.  I sit down with one task and work at it until I'm done, or until I come to a reasonable moment to pause.  So four children at my feet, each one speaking a different request all at the same time overwhelms the physiological make up of my brain.

This road of self-discovery is astonishing, and I love that it is a journey that will take a lifetime.  Hopefully the discoveries become less drastic as I age and come to know and accept myself more.  The hard part is really going against the grain out there, be it the general public opinion or the opinion of smaller groups or friends whose lives and values we admire.  That's the one I find hardest.  Being counter-cultural is easy for me, but holding up these ideals of people I see is hard to let go of.  Gradually I'm coming to discover my own strengths and finding the courage to live and mother with those talents instead of mirroring others.

And so I'm starting to get a sense of what September will look like for me: Tuesday mornings I will lead a small women's group, and Thursday morning I participate in a bible study class.  Friday mornings will (hopefully) be volunteering at the child care at a local gym (so that James and I can benefit from free memberships.)  Monday and Wednesday mornings are for Juliette and I to play at parks, swim, wander through forests, visit cousins and friends.  Afternoons will be for bible study and writing.  Now and then will come the welcome interruption of work (bookkeeping and writing.)

The turning of the weather is always inspiring.  In a country where we have distinctive weather changes, it's nice to have a feeling of rejuvenation and recommitment four times a year.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Writing again

It feels good to be putting words on paper again, and in a much more serious way than I have in the past.  Before, I would scribble ideas here and there, feverishly start a project and then abandon it when the initial flow ran dry.  I've always known that serious writing is more, much more, than that.  But to have hours to carve out to immerse myself in a world, in research, in getting into a groove, well, that was just wishful thinking.

In my mind I have a beautiful little space in my home.  There is a window with sunlight pouring in and green leaves framing the glass on the outside.  There is a cute little desk with a hard backed chair.  There are a few decorative items in soft colours.  My computer adorns the centre, but there is room aplenty to spread out my books and notebook as I go back and forth between materials.  Nearby there is  a comfortable plush chair, big enough for me to recline in my favourite position (head against one arm and legs thrown over the other arm) where I can immerse myself in reading.  It's not necessarily a room unto itself, just a quiet space where I can pass a couple of hours working at writing.

I don't have this space yet, but the past week I have spread myself out on my bed.  Juliette's nap runs almost two hors, during which the older boys get to watch a movie, and I have that quiet time to myself.  The afternoon sun pours in through the bedroom window and illuminates the cream walls and white duvet.  The bed is plenty big enough for the laptop, the ipad, two books and notepad that are necessary to my current project.  And after a lovely trip to the beach on Monday with a fellow writer, I have been inspired once more to get serious about a writing project.

So far this project is simply falling out of my head and onto paper.  I read and write furiously for two hours, and feel I could easily go another hour or two if time allowed.  But perhaps the shortened time keeps me fresh and excited for the next day instead of allowing me to grow bored from spending too long in one thing.

The last time I wrote my own projects this seriously was actually almost exactly a year ago.  Autumn weather has rushed in these past few days and I think the shift is re-energizing me.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Dreaming

One thought:

So I was thinking the other day about homeschooling, and why I don't do it when I love the idea so much.  I've noted before that my children are not the type to like to sit and learn on their own, constantly demanding 100% of my attention and how frustrated I get that I don't have 400% to give to them.  I've also noticed lately how social they are.  My children literally wake up every day and ask "who's house can we go to?"  Yesterday we spent the day at the beach, and while I was "lifeguarding" from the shore I watched Benjamin go out in the water and come back with no less than 15 different parents and their children.  He made friends with 6 different families on the shore and built in the sand with them.  Juliette was excited to have her friends there and explored all day with them.

Second thought:

James and I always keep our eyes out for properties.  In our plans, we would move in two or three years.  The new house would have one more bedroom, an office for James, and a huge rec room in the basement.  If we dream bigger, our little home is one a huge stretch of acreage within 10 minutes of town.  The problem with this lovely dream is that it comes with a price tag of $600,000 or beyond.

Those two thoughts merging:

I realized that we could get the space we want but not on the large property for $200,000 (plus interest) less.  And then I realized that we could go on a $20,000 vacation every year for 10 years or more with that savings...

And then an idea started forming in my mind...

What if, when Colin hit high school, we started to take those vacations.  Not all-inclusive vacations to a resort for a week or two, but big, long, two month vacations.  Big vacations to foreign countries where we study history and English and literature and photography and geography and art and philosophy and music.  What if we rent a home in one spot and travel around?  What if drive to historical settings and learn about history first hand, and experience new cultures, and read books together in the evenings?  What if the kids attended one semester of high school to do math and science and special interest classes and then we take off for a semester and "homeschool?"  Ten years would take us all the way from Colin's first year of high school through Juliette's final year.

I love dreams like this.  And something in me is really, really, really loving this one.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Adult relationships

I always assumed that once I left the world of childhood and entered adulthood that finally people would understand how to relate to one another.  Relationships would be fulfilling, or if not, then at least civil.  Understanding would be extended, intentions assumed to be good, and communication would be clear.  I am realizing that what I saw as a flaw of childhood was actually a condition of humanity.

Perhaps it is the complex method through which communication happens.  Getting one thought from one person to another involves on behalf of the speaker: assimilating information, condensing it, choosing language, using tone, and then on behalf of the listener: hearing and discerning, expanding that information, and disseminating throughout the brain to understand it.  The pathway is long and complex and there is much room for error.  I picture the warning sign that pops up on computers that simply says "error!" when you try to give a command that doesn't get through properly.  If only we humans could just as easily discern an error and give the appropriate message, perhaps there would not be nearly the amount of conflict that exists.

But it goes beyond communication.  As if that wasn't complicated enough, we all have such different personalities that I think sometimes we can't seem to find a common ground to stand on.  Sadly, many people don't even want to try.  I think of the number of times I've metaphorically scaled a mountain trying to understand someone else's point of view, and find myself blocked by a big "no entry" gate as the other person is unwilling to try and discuss the issue.

My own weakness lies in listening.  To truly understand someone you have to truly listen.  Too many times I find myself waiting for a pause in a sentence so I can jump in with my thought.  Too often I find myself wishing they would see what I was saying, since I was obviously right.  I trust my own mind a little too much, unwilling to admit I might be wrong, or at least that we both might be right in different ways.

I suppose if it was all worked out there would be no growth in relationships.  Certainly when two people learn to have a meaningful discussion their relationship deepens another step or two.  And there is no doubt that we as humans always need another good dose of humility, cultivating the ability to accept the ideas of others and our own fallibility.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Colinism

I wrote a while back about rep sports, about getting in deep with one thing, about devoting time and money to something.  As I mulled it all over, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't adverse to helping a real talent along, it's just that I had never come into personal contact with that much talent in one area.  Growing up I always succeeded in what I tried my hand at, but I was never the very best in that field.  Jack of all trades, Master of none.  I might have even been a big fish in a small pond, but I was not gifted with a prodigy-like talent that would have made me a big fish in a big pond.  But my personality type is fine with that.  I like doing well at what I try, but I don't feel a hunger to pursue it with such devotion.

It seems, though, that I might be edging on something here with Colin.  He has just finished a week long soccer camp run by a British soccer club.  I chatted casually at the end of practice today, to get a feel for what they thought.  Each coach described his natural ability as "unreal."  He scored off the charts in every single area.  And this is the first training he's ever had.  He played at recess with his friends at school this past year, and this summer has been playing in a very casual league (ie: his parent coach has no real soccer experience to assist in any training.)

I was able to catch a glimpse of it on Wednesday night.  Camera in hand, I was running between three fields, trying to take photos of all three boys playing on separate fields.  As I crouched on the sidelines of Colin's game, I saw him make intuitive decisions about when to dribble and when to pass.  I saw that for him, the game was more important than the glory.  I saw 110% of his passion and effort poured into every second he was on the field.

Then, I saw him battle for the ball at mid-field.  The next thing I knew, he broke free and was heading toward where I sat by the opposing team's net.  15 feet down he came across a defence man and his feet seemed to dance with the ball.  He tapped the ball at a backward angle, stopped it blind, moved it deftly around the players and continued on.  He barrelled down the field in complete control of the ball, and at the next block he brought the ball to a dead stop and reversed directions from left to right in the blink of an eye.  The next blockage he tapped the ball right through an invisible clear pathway between the tangle of legs.  Another quick deke or two and he was at the net.  He glanced up, gauged the goalie's movement and kicked the ball in the other direction.  It sailed clear into the net.

It took my breath away.  I know a parent is always first to laud their own child's accomplishments.  How natural it is to beam with pride at any accomplishment - whether physical, intellectual, spiritual, of character, or any other.  But for me this was different.  It was a moment to recognize what others have been telling me and I have been so reluctant to hear: he's good.  He's really good.

My heart pumps at finding something my son both loves and excels at.  When you can pinpoint that in a child, you can help them focus through the turmoil years of youth.  Sometimes so much is going on in your body and mind and heart that your head can get lost in it all.  Having something to throw yourself into can be therapeutic.  I had music growing up.  I can recall the hours I spent at the piano, picking up the guitar, the clarinet.  Even now when my head swirls I have turned to the flute, the violin, and back to my old favourites also.  Music has given me passion, focus, discipline, release, and love.  It's wonderful to see the same thing in Colin.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Calebite

Caleb offered to take a friend's paper route today while they were on vacation. 

Before starting: "This is awesome! I can't wait to get a route of my own."

Halfway delivering: "All this work for only $10? My time is worth so much more than that. $20 at least."

When finished: "No way I'm ever getting a paper route. No way."