Friday, 31 January 2014


I haven't written much lately, for two reasons.

The first is that, during January, the kids have been off school due to snow days more days than they have been at school.  The five of us have been occupying the same 500 square feet of space all day, every day, without a wall or door to divide.  The -30C weather is too cold to try and get outside even with long johns and winter gear, and the three feet of snow make it near impossible for little ones to try and walk through it.  We are all losing it a little, and so when night comes my brain has nothing left to give.

The second is that I seem to be catching beautiful inspiring lines here and there, snatches that leave a strong impression and then are gone with the next "Mom!"  I have written at least a dozen blog entries in my mind, which vanish before I have a chance to get them down.

Instead of writing I have been making music.  The violin, the piano, the flute and the guitar have been singing regularly throughout the days here.  The artist in me still stretches her arms out, needing to be released in one way or another.  I mourn the loss of all those wonderful ideas that could have been, and yet there will come more.

Thursday, 30 January 2014


Today Colin wrote a poem for a Cub badge.  This is what he came up with, completely on his own.  He even titled it himself (which is almost the best part):

At Bedtime

As the stars glow in the night,
As the moon shines so bright,
I rock you to sleep, my dear,
All of your troubles will disappear

This mama is bursting with pride.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Monday, 20 January 2014

2014 - Less

Sigh.  I seem to always be on a mission for minimalism, and never quite achieving it.  Or, in a more positive light, perhaps the journey to less is never finished.  In our western society, I think it is impossible to truly grasp what it is to live an uncluttered life.

A couple weeks back as I was putting away all the Christmas decorations, it occurred to me not to replace it with all the usual home decor I had up before.  The clocks, picture frames and knick knacks I left in a big bin.  Last year I lived by the mantra that if it wasn't useful or beautiful not to let it clutter up my space.  This year I'm going to start with nothing and see how it goes.  Somehow I don't think in our small 1200 sq ft home we will ever feel empty or bare.

Of course, I seem to have the terrible luck of needing something a couple of weeks after I throw it out or give it away.  Something that I haven't looked at or used much in years will suddenly be needed and out I go to replace it.  Ah well.  I suppose that it the price of an uncluttered life.

Similarly, we Westerners have a need to fill the metaphorical space around us.  More events on the calendar, more commitments, more background noise, more media, more people, more projects.  I want to "be still" more this year, in order that my head, emotions and spirit might be more clear.

Ironically, last year my word for the year was "More."  It was about making my life more about others than about myself.  When the word "less" came to mind this year, I didn't remember right away about last year.  I guess I'm on a continuing mission, or, in other words, a year wasn't quite long enough for what God has in mind for me.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Counterfeit (part three)

I finally feel at peace in the presence of God.  I don't feel foreign to him because of the absence of a feeling faith.  I feel at home in his logic and order.

Which brings me back full circle to the counterfeit trainees.  I imagine a figure hunched over a genuine document.  A light shines in the darkness and illuminates every grain in the paper, every mark of the ink, every angle of every feature.  His hands sweep the paper, tracing the indents, memorizing the bumps.  Day after day after day he stares at the real thing, until it is so familiar to him that he sees it in his sleep, can recognize it in the darkness by its feel.  Now, if he were to happen upon a counterfeit in his daily dealings, even the smallest variance would be so glaringly wrong.

There is logic, order, structure in his learning.  But there is not doubt.  He does not fill his days trying to memorize every different way in which this document could be altered.  He does not surround himself with falsehoods, imitations, swearing to commit all these to memory so as to catch them if he sees them again.  That is neither scientific nor logical.  He need only be so familiar with the truth that he can never be fooled.

I feel God reaching down to me, showing me the Word: the Logos, the logic, the Son, the scriptures, the gospel.  They are all the Word, and they are all truth.  I do not need to doubt and question and swirl in the negativity that grips me in that world.  Instead, I must immerse myself in the Word, logic and all, and simply know that He is God.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Counterfeit (part two)

So here I have been over the past 15 years or so, desperately searching for the feeling faith that I assume I must have.  Every time my logical side would settle in, I would unseat it and try to fill the gap with emotions.

I never succeeded.

Instead I wondered if a logical mind could never truly embrace faith.  Maybe I was never designed for spiritual things.  I clung to all things music, because through music I have always been able to feel.  But religion remained firmly planted in the knowledge area of my brain.

Then, I read about logic.  I was immediately struck by the author's use of that word.  That word that had been swirling in my head for so long, that word that I have always used to describe myself.

(from Ann Voskamp's blog)

"In the beginning was the Word" John 1:1
(Word, the greek word Logos, meaning "Logic")

More than half a century before the Gospel of John was ever written, more than 500 years before God pulled on flesh and stretched out on straw, Heraclitus was the first Greek philosopher who used that word: Logos.

Heraclitus was this Greek philosopher who looked at the world, at the skies, at nature, and said that there had to be some unity, some governing principle, some harmonious order to the cosmos…and Heraclitus concluded that what gives the world all coherent structure — is a principle he called Logos.

Heraclitus said that the coherent structure of everything, the order behind the world, the order of all things — was Logos.

Heraclitus said that the principle of all cosmic organization — was Logos.

And for 500 years after Heraclitus, the Greeks lived by Logos. They lived their life by Logos, the principle of meaning and balance and profound order in the universe.

A slave was meant to serve, a cup was meant to contain, a horse was meant to haul. This was logic. This was Logos.  A slave didn’t contain wine, a cup didn’t haul bags, a horse didn’t serve dinner. Life had a Logos, a logic of being, a reason for existence, and you aligned yourself with the Logos.

Align yourself with the Logos and your life was rightly organized.

And then 500 years after Heraclitus — John picks up picks up a pen, chooses his words carefully, purposefully, divinely, and his ink blows the top right off the whole down and out world:

In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God — and the Logos was God. The first lines of John’s book reorients the cosmos:

The Logos isn’t an organizing Principle — It’s an organizing Person.

The Absolute behind the universe is absolutely Jesus.

The order behind the World — is Jesus in the World.

The organizing structure of the world isn’t a philosophy — the organizing structure of the world is the Word — the Word of God. The words of Jesus.

All cosmic organization is not around one principle – but around One Person.

Whoa.  Logos.  Logic.  God is logic.  God is logic and order and organization and structure.  Suddenly, I found a place for my logic.  Suddenly, I realized my logical mind was not foreign to God, but instead birthed from His very essence.  "And the [logic] was God."

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Counterfeit (part one)

(I heard this today, and while I count vouch for its veracity, it sounded sensible to me. So I'm going to run with it anyway.  Even if it isn't always true, I can at least use it as a springboard for thought.)

Apparently, when people are being trained to identify counterfeit materials, they do not spend any time studying fake items.  They spend all their time and training studying the real thing.  Then, when they come across something fake, the differences will be immediately obvious.

This thought, when applied to spirituality, is revolutionary for me.  I am a questioner and a doubter by nature.  I inhale information as though it were oxygen.  I am a rational and logical thinker.  And while I know there is a place for this in religion, you don't come across it very often in you day to day interactions.  Most of the people I know who have some sort of faith embrace it in a very emotional way.  They feel faith.

I have struggled for a long time about why I don't feel faith in the same way.  Why do so many people start to cry as soon as they talk about God?  I don't have that sort of reaction, and because of that, over the years I have relegated my faith to a lesser form.  Every few years I come into contact with a kindred logical spirit.  Usually they are men (men tend to be more logical than their emotional female counterpart) and the contact is a brief and passing one.  I would love to sit weekly with a group of friends to examine issues of faith in a studious way, but I have never yet found others who desire likewise.

Back to my logical ways.  A logic mind often seeks debate.  I like to look at all the sides of a problem, I like to question and take ideas apart and see if they reassemble into their prior selves or into something new.  But sometimes, too often, the scientific method leans towards doubting, which leaves the scientist in a negative state of mind.

Herein lies the problem: a negative state of mind rarely finds peace in its subject.  And so how can my faith bring me peace if I constantly feel the need to question everything?

I wasn't sure what the answer was.  And yet, I know there are many religious scholars out there.  But was their faith a lesser form than someone with a testimony based on feelings?  Does faith have to be an emotional response?

(to be continued)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

On simplicity and days gone by (part three)

My goal is a close-knit family.  Children who long to be home, who miss their siblings, who breathe a sigh of relief when they enter the haven of our home.  While homeschooling seems to be one method that achieves this, how can I use my own situation (kids attending public school) to benefit in some other way?

I don't believe that I have to settle for a lesser result.  In fact, I think having the kids attending school can actually create just as strong a family bond, if I use the rest of the time wisely.  You see, by being away for five hours a day, the kids will see a sharp contrast between home and away.  Just as "absence makes the heart grow fonder" that time away from each other will increase their desire to play with each other.

It means that I have to guard carefully that time.  If they have seen their friends for five hours at school, then I don't need to feel the pressure to ferry the kids around to play dates or host an endless stream of friends.  When they return home, we need to gather to work and play together, engaging in activity and recreation that is fun and encourages being together, not apart.

I want to find our family "thing."  I want to foster each of our personal interests, but I want to find something that we all enjoy together, that we engage in regularly, and that ties us together.  We haven't found it yet, I think mostly because having little babies makes it difficult for everyone to participate in many things.  But I do know we love to hike and Geocache and camp, and we love making music (singing and instrumental.)  We've also played lots of baseball and board games and have made some fun movies with the kids.

I want to keep our home setting simple and uncluttered from too much stuff.  I want to encourage movement and flow throughout the rooms rather than everyone disappearing off into their own corner.  While the introvert in me cringes at the bombardment of noise, a part of me understands that it means we are all here and present and engaging with each other.

I want to value work and teach that value to my children.  We have an allotment of time in our life and I hope we live it out to the fullest and not idle it away in "bread and circus" living.

During the teen years, the struggle for personal identity begins, and I think that, for many, it never ends.  I feel that through my 20s I was able to become comfortable with who I am as an individual.  Now in my 30s I am realizing that I need to be comfortable with my family identity also.  There is not one mould into which we all need to fit.  There are many paths that lead to the vision of family I have.  I need to choose the right one for my family and not be caught up in how others are getting there.  And I need to encourage, not judge, the different paths others are on as we take this parenting trek together.

Friday, 10 January 2014

On simplicity and days gone by (part two)

Homeschooling hearkens back to "the good old days."  This week our family visited the National Museum of Play in Rochester.  My favourite room is "The Parlour," a life size version of a Victorian dollhouse.  There is an old iron wood stove, a wooden table to set, a pantry with beautiful tin canisters, a fireplace and a piano, old washing tubs and linens and ironing boards.  And bookshelves of books everywhere.  Juliette was ready for a nap, and the huge storm the previous night meant that the museum was almost deserted.  I settled into a large comfortable lounge chair and let Juliette fall asleep in my arms.  I picked up "Little House in the Big Woods" from the shelf and read for nearly three hours.

The setting and the book paired so beautifully hand in hand.  Here is a family, here is their home deep in the woods, here is isolation, here is work, here is play that mimics work, here are a few toys, here is a lot of love.  The hours passed in sibling play, or stories by the fire, or fiddled music and dancing, or dutifully fulfilling chores.

A close-knit family.  

Our trip also took us to some historic sites from our church history, pioneer homes rebuilt and refurnished.  White walls and wooden chairs, with herbs hanging in front of the fireplace.  One bedroom for the boys and one for the girls.  Eleven people moving in a small space, with many outdoor chores calling them from their four wooden walls.  The cold chill of winter pulling them back to one another, reading a bible, singing songs, sharing stories.

A close-knit family.

I look around at these settings of days gone by and fall in love with the beauty of its simplicity.  I start to mentally purge my own home.  "I don't need two where one will do" echoes in my mind like the rhythm of a train racing down its tracks.

Our lives today would rarely be categorized as simple.  And yet, I think we are the ones who complicate it.  We fill our calendar with events and our homes with stuff and our minds with gossip and worry and fear and anger and the constant drone of media.

Laura Ingalls Wilder describes most of her days as Pa going off to hunt or trap in the morning, Laura and her sister helping Ma get the house in order.  Then there might be cleaning or baking or sewing.  The children played with their one doll, or a cob of corn wrapped in a blanket for girls too young for such a toy.  Summer days meant romping through the woods.  Dinner is prepared and Pa returns.  More chores, then dinner, then stories and music and dancing.  Then the girls are tucked into bed for the day.

As Henry David Thoreau reminded us, our needs are basic and simple: food, shelter, clothing, fuel.  Speaking for myself and my own family, there need not be any stress or worry or fear in regards to the supply of these necessities.  We have more than enough.  More than an abundance.

(to be continued)

Thursday, 9 January 2014

On minimalism, simplicity and days gone by (part one)

Last year I read the book "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." Quite controversial when it was released, many found the author's parenting style too harsh.  When I finished the book, I found that while I didn't agree with the method, I could see the validity of the thesis.

Since then, I have tried to see the good in most things.  What drives this person?  Why are they so passionate about this thing?  Why does is method work for them?  What are the theories behind it?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about homeschooling.  Actually, lately I've been feeling a lot of guilt about not homeschooling.  I have a few friends who do, and I admire so much what they are doing.  I've also seen a couple episodes of the tv show "19 kids and counting" about a mother of 19 children, all of whom she homeschools. The guilt I feel comes from the fact that I have no problem with the "school" part of homeschool, but the "home" part. I have a feeling if we five were home all day together it would be one big constant war.  No happy feelings, no peace, no productivity.  And in our tiny home, no escape.

But then I started to think about the theory behind the method.  What is it about homeschooling that I am after?  The number one thing is family togetherness.  I watch that tv show and I see the tight knit relationships the siblings have and I want that.  I see how they work together and I want that.  The second thing is giving my children  wide and varied learning experiences.

So, as I delve deeper, I realize it's not necessarily homeschooling that I want for my family, but the values and lifestyle that is a natural result from homeschooling.  I am coming to realize that I can achieve these goals in other ways, ways that, for my family, might be a better fit. It's been really hard for me to come to this conclusion, because I have felt like I just haven't measured up because I wouldn't jump into homeschooling.  I wondered why I wasn't jumping at the opportunity to be home with my children all day.  Doesn't every good mother ultimately wish for that?

(To be continued)

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New Year

Things I have in mind for 2014:

1.  Morning yoga.  Right after the boys are out the door, Juliette and I will do a yoga program (video), 3 mornings a week.

2.  Writing.  I have a small group of friends who all love to write, and who, like myself, have let this creative outlet run dry since having children.  We are going to form a small accountability group in which to share and encourage each other in our writing.  I have one children's book and one non-ficiton women's book I want to write this year.

3.  School programs.  I hope to at least run a track and field team in the spring at my kids' school.  I may also do Bucket drumming in the winter, if I can fit it in.

4.  Garage organization.  This is a big summer project for me.  Not just a shift of everything in there, but finally ripping out the shelving that isn't in the right spot and re-jigging it all.

5.  Build a dollhouse for Juliette's second birthday.  I have a couple of cute ideas, and I'm excited to build her one instead of buying one.

6.  Trip to France.  Happy 10 years to me and James.  We will celebrate together in Paris and in the south of France in June.

7.  Family hiking.  My parents outfitted us for Geocaching proper with a great kit.  I hope to get out on many more adventures this year.