Monday, 21 December 2015


Caleb is loving the piano...and he's not taking lessons anymore.  He took lessons every other week last year with a friend of mine, with the intent that once he had the basics down I would sort of coach him along at home.  Formal piano lessons have been a bust in our small house, with the piano in the play room and three other kids playing and talking loudly right beside us.

I had thought that in the new year I would pull the older two boys from school to give them piano lessons without the younger two causing a stir, but I'm having second thoughts.  Because Caleb is loving the piano, and thriving at the piano, and all without me.

He plays his old songs and teaches himself new songs.  But mostly he loves to compose his own work. He's written a half dozen songs already.  Mostly they comprise repetitive note patterns with varying speeds and tempos.  Earlier in the fall, he came to me after composing a new song and asked me if there was anyway to get the song into the computer because "I need a way to add in the violin notes I hear in my head also."  My heart soared at hearing that.  The music is in his head.

I'm amazed at how intuitive music is, when let loose from the constrains of formal instruction.  Over the holidays, he taught himself to play "Deck the Halls" by ear, in the key of C.  Then, in playing around with transposition, he settled on starting on the A position instead of C - effectively transposing the song to the key of A minor.  He stated just how much he loved the new spooky sound.  I was amazed that he had, completely naturally, found the relative minor key to the major key the song began in.  (Sorry if that doesn't make sense to any non-musicians, but it's actually a really big deal to discover that on your own.)

We recently moved the piano from the playroom to the living room (a matter of 6 feet) so that you can sit at the bench without toys in the way.  Caleb often stops on his way through the house to sit and play for five or ten minutes, then continues on his way.  It's such a part of the fabric of who he is, and I love it.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Handel's Messiah

This past weekend I performed in a concert of Handel's Messiah.  Since September I have been singing with a group of concert singers, going through each choral piece from this intricate opera note by note.  I have been challenged as a musician and most certainly as a singer, which is not anything I've been specifically trained in.  Our group of 30 combined with another local group of about 75 to make a most magnificent choir.

Our first concert was in the United Church here in town, an old stone soaring cathedral built in the 1800s.  As our voices combined into musical chords the sound filled the structure and created the most incredible resonance.  Even the echoing silence after a note was cut off gave goosebumps.

I have never heard The Messiah all the way through before. I didn't know the string of scriptures that made up the story.  I had never seen the intricate runs of 16th notes.  But as I basked in such quality music week after week, it made me realize how much cultural junk food seeps into our daily lives.  While art can be entertaining, it is at its most powerful when it is reflecting us as a society, challenging us, or celebrating beauty.  Much of what we (I) consume these days falls short.

A friend recently wrote about finishing a year of great classical reads.  It's been a while since I cracked open one of these classic tomes, and his musing awakened in me the old yearning to really sink my teeth into something profound.

Likewise, I want to fill my children's lives with things "virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, of good report." I love how inspired I am by the good art of the world, and I want to make sure my children are too.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


We have yet to figure out a money system that works in our house, in relation to the kids.  They don't yet get a steady allowance (although we keep trying), but now and then they pick up some birthday money or something for a lost tooth, or a small gift from a grandparent just for being a darn cute kid.  At any rate, we are basically a cashless family now, so we never have bills and coins and change just sitting around.  Plus both Ben and Juliette have a penchant for wanting to count and play with money and I'm pretty sure some would go missing, and not necessarily their own.  For a while I tried having a little paper notebook, like the old checking account book I had as a kid (that you put into the green machine and it printed out your balance on it.)  That worked for a while, then we lost the books.

So we basically resorted to an honour/memory system.  Each of the boys just keeps a running tab in their head of what they have and what they spend.  They are astonishingly accurate and honest in their dealings, which is really nice to see.  They probably think I can remember it all, which would never be the case.  So up and down it goes, with an extra birthday check or a new book or toy. When they want to buy something, they inform me how much they have, and how much they will have once they "spend" the money.

With that background, we came to last Thursday.  Benjamin came home from school almost in tears.  His whole class was able to walk around those travelling book sales they bring to schools (overpriced books and encouraging the kids to make a detailed list of everything they want! Argh, I can't stand it!)  Well, he found a book he really wanted.  It was $10.  He knew that because he's five, he received $5 in allowance for September and October, giving him exactly $10.  So he grabbed the book, marched up to the cashier, and informed that person that he had $10 to spend, and that they could take that and he would take the book.  Well, Benjamin was absolutely confounded that the person was asking for paper money.  He knew he had earned the $10, so the person could just have it!

When I heard that story, I realized it's probably time to have a little lesson on how money works and maybe keep a more official record of everything.  Time to take a trip down to the bank and open some bank accounts, I think.

(I did give Ben that $10 to take the next day and buy his book.  Broke my heart and I couldn't refuse! Plus, it wasn't just a book, it was also a french book.  I figure there's not much better to spend their money on!)

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Beth Moore/Travis Cottrell

Last week I was able to attend a weekend conference featuring Beth Moore and Travis Cottrell.  Beth Moore is far and away my favourite bible study teacher right now, and has been for the past eight years or so.  When I watch her teach, she is so engaging and dynamic.  But when I listen to her teach, she reaches my intellectual craving when it comes to bible study.  She's got history, geography, cultural references, etymology.  And she studies things at such a slow pace (like, four or five verses a day) that by the end of a ten week study you know that book of scripture so well it's just saturating everything you do.

Travis Cottrell is the man who leads the worship and music portion of her conferences.  He was an opera singer turned worship leader and his voice and passion reflect that background in music.  From the first note my eyes just wouldn't stop overflowing.

As it happened, I was able to get a front row seat, both days (first come, first serve.)  A group of my friends were coming and sitting in a certain section, but with propensity to be early I was within the first dozen through the doors.  I beelined to the front and found two seats (for a line mate I met) right in the front that were unreserved (most of the first 10 rows were reserved for staff and volunteers.)  Although I missed my friends, God knew I needed to be right up front.  There, I was able to look without distraction, and worship as though God and I were one on one.  Every word from every song saturated my soul, and every word from his Word planted itself in my heart.

Friday night I was staying in a hotel, since Saturday started early.  I lingered at the end of the Friday night session, hoping to speak to Travis and the other musicians.  (Not that I ever know what to say.)  I hovered, unsure of how to step in, until another woman near my expressed her nervousness also.  So I just pushed her up ahead and forced her to break the ice (aren't I nice!)  At the end of her conversation with Travis, she mentioned that now she had to figure out what public transit bus to take to get home.

Immediately the spirit whispered to me "offer her a ride."  She was a middle aged woman relying on a cane, and also perhaps partially deaf. I had an empty van and only a hotel to go to.  I wanted to say something so badly, but the introvert in me froze my mouth and I stood there, saying nothing.  The woman turned and left.  I stepped up to Travis, and, of course, had literally nothing to say.  I mumbled a word or two of appreciation and turned tail, booting it out of the arena.

When I finally eased my pace at the front doors, I felt awful.  I knew I needed to give that woman a ride, but there were 5000 women in the huge stadium.  How would I ever find her?  But as I turned around, there she was, struggling up the stairs.  I approached her, saying that I knew I was a stranger but could I offer her a ride? She gratefully accepted.

The adventure began there: she didn't drive and so didn't know the roads very well.  My phone (and GPS) was giving me a strange error I had never seen before and so wasn't working.  The woman knew the major road she was looking for, so we just headed out.  We made a few wrong turns before finding that road, and then we headed off.  I drove about 20 minutes in the direction, which I knew was in the opposite direction of my hotel.  I dropped her off at her front door and then paused.  I hadn't printed directions for the hotel, as I was relying on my phone's GPS.  But I did know it was right near the airport.  So I just rolled down my window and peeked up into the dark night sky.  Before long I saw a few planes overhead and I was able to track the direction in which they were landing.  That gave me enough bearings to drive toward the airport.  Before long the hotel name appeared in blazoned lights, to my utter relief.

As I finally collapsed in bed after a late night dinner, nearly 3 hours after the conference ended, I was grateful that I was given a second chance to follow the promptings of the spirit.  It was a small effort on my part, but a large blessing to that woman.  And a story I will remember for a while.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Still here...still thinking...just not writing

I couldn't say exactly why I haven't come back here in so long.  Perhaps part of it is that my parents have been visiting for the past couple of months here, so I don't have to keep as diligent a journal for them.  Perhaps it's because I've been knee deep in a screenplay I've been commissioned to write.  Perhaps I just haven't been able to surface or sit down long enough to collect my thoughts and get them out in some form of cohesive thought.

The days seem to slide by.  My three year old tries me most days.  I've been trying to supply teach and prepare a university application (am I really doing that?)  I'm running the primary (children's ministry) of 75 children and 15 teachers/leaders.  I joined a community choir and am learning Handel's Messiah for a Christmas concert.  Six people worth of laundry, three meals a day, and somehow, somehow trying to stay on top of keeping this place clean livable.

Colin has seemingly gone from toddler to grade five in the blink of an eye.  Grade five was my very favourite year in school, and just watching him move from the lower grades into these upper ones has been neat.  At his small school, grade 5/6 is one class, and then 7/8 is one class, both taught by male teachers.  They have a greater discipline and higher expectations.  The leap has been an adjustment but one he's taken in stride.

Caleb was seen by a speech therapist.  We hoped to help correct some misformed sounds.  In a surprise twist, we were told that if he sees a specialist they might be able to actually fix his permanently raspy voice.  There are no guarantees, but he's happy to explore the option.

Benjamin is still trying to find his place.  There are times he and Juliette emit the most beautiful laughter as they play endless imaginative games.  But many times he's causing trouble and then bursts into tears because he can't quite keep up with his big brothers.

Juliette is all of a sudden a real little girl.  She talks a mile a minute, with a thousand things to say.  She speaks with such expression that we break out in smiles listening to her most of the time.  Then she turns on that three year old tantrums and I'm at the end of my wits.  And yet, knowing that I'm off to school next year, and then on to a career, I'm trying (trying) to relish these days home with my children.

I hope to be back here more often.  I'm kicking myself in the rear end to kick a few bad habits (those bad TV ones that just waste so much time!)  I've been doing well for a week, getting lots of things done, so hopefully I can capture a bit more of life here.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Jobs, careers, hobbies, interests

I've always had a wide variety of interests and hobbies, many of which could be turned into jobs or careers.  The trouble now is trying to decide what is what.  Over the last couple of months, I feel like one by one, the pieces of the puzzle are finding their place.  A lot of prayer and pondering has gone into this process, and it's not done yet.  But this is the direction I've received so far.

Music is meant to be just for me.  While in the past I have earned money teaching and coaching, I feel strongly that for now it is for my own healing.  I play and sing and write for myself, or to share my gift with others freely.  Right now, I cannot attach a price to this.  Freely I have been given, and freely I must give.

Photography is to be for enjoyment, for learning, and for a small profit.  I am not pursuing clients, but I will take those who approach me.  I am digging into the training I received years ago in university, and teaching myself new techniques in photography and editing.  I charge a nominal amount, really a very small amount compared to what my time and training are worth.  But in this I am able to give family photos to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it, while making a small amount of money on the side.

Teaching is where my next career is going to start.  This will involve two years of university, starting next September (hopefully.)  In a special blessing I received years ago, meant to help and direct my life, I was told that I would be a leader and example in the career I chose, and that the choice would be up to me.  That was a little scary to face, given the pressure for success but also the complete open ended choice.  I have always had a passion for teaching, but I feel that I won't stay in a classroom for 25 years.  Instead, I feel drawn to help in curriculum development or classroom teaching methods, or something like that.

Writing will pay for my schooling.  This is the biggest leap of faith for me, and the most recent puzzle piece to fall into place.  For a moment I doubted the truth of it, because it can be difficult to earn anything while writing, let alone paying for a university education.  A small miracle occurred to solidify my faith; while I was wondering and doubting, praying for a confirmation, I received an email out of the blue.  A producer for whom I wrote a script over a year ago emailed to say he had finally received payment from a client and was sending me my writing fee.  I had given up pursuing this money last year, and had completely forgotten I was owed it.  Then, just when I asked for confirmation that I could write and earn enough money, it arrived.  Currently I'm writing a screenplay, and if it moves forward as expected, I should receive a large payment for it.  There are no guarantees, but my confidence is buoyed.

I have a hundred writing ideas, and a dozen small business ideas, and I've never felt that I would lack ideas or abilities or opportunities to make money.  But it is a new experience to trust God so completely in such important decisions, instead of relying on my own strength and capability.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

General Conference

Okay, this is me needing to get something out there.

Twice a year, my church live streams 4 two hour conferences over a Saturday and Sunday.  It's called General Conference.  It is a combination of beautiful music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and inspirational talks from church leaders.  It's a time to be renewed, find direction and purpose, and be uplifted.

As a kid, this conference was only available by satellite broadcast to our local church building.  while some people would go back and forth to view all four sessions, most families simply brought their kids to the Sunday morning session.  We would bring books to read and pictures to colour and maybe, just maybe, we might tune in to a story or two.

Now, the conference is broadcast over the internet, so we can view it on our own TVs, sitting on our couch (and yes, even in our pyjamas.)  This has made watching all four sessions a whole lot easier for parents with young kids.  Traditionally we let the kids just go about their business while we listen in, still able to change a diaper or get a snack while hearing everything.

Over the past five years or so, there has been a huge shift in Mormon culture to create a slew of activities that help your kids watch not just one two hour session, but all four.  Pinterest exploded with activity packets.  Two current favourites are "colour the speaker's tie" or eat a certain candy whenever the speaker says a certain word.  And over the past few years, I have faithfully prepared elaborate picnics, printed out hundreds of activity pages, provided glue and markers and scissors, and plied my kids with candy.

None of it works.

To colouring ties: "That's not the right shade of green for his tie! I think it has dots.  No, it's diamonds. Dots are easier to draw.  Diamonds are right. Those stripes are too thick. I don't like colouring. That woman isn't wearing a tie."  For two straight hours.

To candy rewards: "Did they just say the word? I think they did. No they didn't. That was the other word. Yes they did! I'm going to eat one. Don't you dare because it wasn't the word!"  For two straight hours.

To clever crafts: "Pass the glue.  He threw the glue at me. Can you clean up the glue that spilled? I cut my shirt with the scissors.  I cut my hair with the scissors. I can't cut the paper with the scissors. She's colouring her arms instead of the paper." For two straight hours.

So I sat myself down one day to figure out why on earth I was doing what I was doing.  I'm not opposed to hard work, but sometimes I forget why I'm doing something.  The goal was to create a love of conference in my children, a desire as they grow to listen to these inspiring words.  But what I was doing was not doing that.  Not at all.  The result of what I was doing was four kids pumped up on sugar, frustrated from the crafts, and nobody hearing a single word.

I realized that I love watching conference, and I did not grow up being made to watch it.  the love came as a grew to an appropriate age for the kind of activity it is.  I was getting caught up in Pinterest and Facebook land, and by a style of learning that, while seems to work for others, was clearly not working for us.

So this weekend we simply had the conference on.  James and I watched what we could, and listened to the rest if we had to step out of the room.  The kids came in and out, watching pieces here and there. Somehow all three boys heard the story about young boys digging a huge hole in a field and creating a mud puddle in which to swim.  Juliette fell asleep next to me for a bit.  There were no tricks or gimmicks.  And I have to trust that one day my children will love it like I do.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Long breaks

These long breaks between entries are not intentional.  September was supposed to bring with it a return to schedule, and a moment to breathe again with the boys back in school.  Somehow I just haven't found the groove yet.  Supply teaching, working out at the gym, writing, has just gone by in a blur.

Juliette started preschool, which gives me one morning a week to run errands without a three year old in tow.  This has been the most difficult part of mothering so far: four kids who just don't do well in large spaces. My children crave the freedom to run, and that just doesn't work in a Wal-Mart, or a parking lot, or the grocery store.  The first day Juliette was at preschool I must have hit a dozen stops in less than two hours.  It was so stress-free I relished it.  It was supposed to be my writing time (a looming deadline is fast approaching) but it was too tempting.

Speaking of writing, I'm head deep in writing a screenplay.  The first draft was completed back in June, but a complete revamp is now underway.  As a writer, I have a dozen new story ideas a week and I can't wait until I have some time to get some of them on paper.

Soccer is about to start up again.  Colin and Caleb both had rep tryouts, and both made their teams.  We really enjoyed that part of our summer last year - lazy summer nights sitting by the field, chatting with friends, the younger ones at the parks, watching the boys play their hearts out.

I'm gearing up to apply for teacher's college, starting next fall.  I've had so much encouragement, from teacher friends and from teaching professionals who have seen me supply.  While I don't know that I'll stay in the classroom for my whole career, this is definitely the first step.

After a decade away, I've rejoined the cell phone league.  I still have trouble remembering to charge the thing and make sure I take it with me, but we've ditched the landline at home, so hopefully before long it will start to stick.

And finally, I moved our piano from the playroom into the living room.  The poor think has been gathering dust because I can only play it when the children are all otherwise occupied, but that usually means they are in the playroom, which makes it difficult for me to actually sit at the piano.  This year I joined a choir and we are preparing Handel's Messiah for the Christmas season, but I've been sorely missing my musical outlet as of late.  Time to remedy that.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


New year. New goals.  Not ramping things up, but slowing things down.

September is, and will be for many years, the new year.  It's a time to rethink how things are going, to clean out the clutter, to refocus my efforts and make some goals.  This year though, I want to do that by easing up on my days.

I feel that this year will be a year of writing.  Currently I'm in the middle of writing a screenplay.  We're in full pre-production swing and aiming to shoot next March/April.  It's an exciting process that has really kicked me back into gear for writing.

The nice thing about writing is that, for the most part, it's a solitary exercise.  I must force myself to withdraw from the busyness, give myself some space and some breathing room, and slow down enough to immerse myself in fictional lives.

And, as always, I'm constantly trying to get rid of the stuff that surrounds us.  These days I feel like I stand in a room and just stare, trying to find ways to simplify what's around me.  Last week the boys ended up at the wrong end of my futile efforts when I forced them to clean out their "stuff boxes."

This is my last year with Juliette home.  It's already tough, as usual, with her intensity and independence.  But I'm hoping we can find some fall forests to wander through, some adventures through the library, and perhaps even some ventures out of town (how long has it been since I left our little town?)

So here's to a new year, with a little less busyness around.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


Today was a day.

I marvelled at Caleb.  He told me he'd decided on a career - a nuclear scientist.  He wants to figure out how to "neutralize nuclear bombs before they go off." (his words.)  So he found a science book that explained the theory behind nuclear energy.  Then he came up with the idea that, because the protons and neutrons and electrons spin in a tight cycle, and if he came up with a second layer that spun even tighter it might prevent the destabilization and detonation.

I got news that a screenplay I wrote passed the last hurdle before going into preproduction.

I met a wonderful kindred spirit at a friend's house, and when I left I couldn't wait to meet again.

I hashed out some organizing issues with some smart women, and I realized that I don't have to own all the decisions about how to keep this place clean.  Two things have bugged me for a while... The first is how frustrated I get at having to organize and reorganize my husband's clothing drawers every week.  Every week I take everything out and put it back in nicely, in order.  And every day he rummages around and messes it all up.  I would stew about how he doesn't appreciate my effort enough to keep it tidy.  Well, today I realized that not only does he probably not mind the drawer that way, he probably never even noticed whether it was tidy or not.  So now I just shove it all in each week, and he hasn't noticed and I don't fume.  The second is that he always put his work and church binders on the cubby in our front hall.  I would clear the mess down to his office in frustration, and then he would be frustrated the next morning when he went to pick up the binders and they weren't where he left them.  So today I gave him a cubby box for his binders.  Problem solved.

Juliette screamed for an hour in protest at bedtime.  But the boys all read to themselves for 45 minutes and then turned out their own light promptly at 8pm.

I paced around the house, desperate to purge and realizing there isn't much more to go.  And still I don't feel quite settled with it.

I sat out in the backyard of my friend, taking in the quietness of the country and the indigo jewel of a pond and the hazy air and the infinite shades of green.  I was there for 4 hours, and the light was perfect every single minute.

These are the days I'm living.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Small miracles

Today at church we talked with the primary children about miracles.  It's easy to read and talk about miracles written about in the scriptures, but we wanted to emphasize how miracles happen today, whether big or small.

I was impressed to share how important it is to record our personal miracles, to write them down and then share them often in our family.  The days just zip by and it's easy to forget the small miracles that God grants us.  In that spirit, I wanted to record a little miracle we experienced last week.

At camp last week, we had 10 moms and 45 kids, and a forecast that included rain.  While none of us minded rain while we swam, there is nothing worse than setting up or taking down tents, and packing up, in the pouring rain.  And Wednesday night, as we sat around the fire near midnight, that's exactly what we were facing the next day.  The local forecast called for heavy rain starting at 3 in the morning and not letting up all night or all the next day.  There was part of us that steeled ourselves against the possibility of climbing into vans sopping wet, but we weren't going to just resign ourselves to that fact.

Instead, ten moms raised their voices to heaven and prayed for the rain to hold off long enough to get the entire camp packed up.  Our children heard our desire to pray, and we prayed that they might have a chance to witness the power of prayer.

I was awaked at 3 am to the sound of rain tapping on the tent.  I fell asleep once again in prayer.

I woke again at 6 am to the sound of moms hauling gear to their vans.  When I unzipped my tent and stepped out, blue sky stretched above me.  The rain from the night had dried and left our tents ready to pack up.  For three hours all 55 of us worked hard, packing up, sweeping, cleaning, tidying, feeding hungry children.  Strange wispy grey clouds would occasionally gather above but when I looked back up they were gone within seconds.  Finally, as we all gathered under the pavilion at nine am, the last mother was just coming up from the beach area as the heavens opened and thunderous rain poured down in a torrential storm.

It was small, but so meaningful.  Someone commented about how the prayers of 10 righteous mothers cannot be ignored.  I just love that my children were able to see the tender mercies of God, even in the small things.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

As the summer flies by

For the first summer, we are nap free and diaper free.  This has opened up so many wonderful possibilities!

I've already packed in two camping trips in August (just me and the kids), plus many swims at a friend's pond, rollerblading at the outdoor rink, geocaching and hiking, kayaking (even Juliette!) meet ups at parks and friend's houses, and soccer, soccer and soccer!  We've had late nights and lazy mornings, but mostly we've been going from sun-up until well past sun down.  I've tried to say "yes" as often as I can.

Our reading challenge went more amazingly than I could imagine.  Colin took things to a whole new level by reading and entire children's bible (350+ pages that includes almost every chapter of the bible) in three days, and then also an entire section of the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi) in one day.  His understanding of the overarching events grew leaps and bounds through this challenge.  Caleb tried to keep up, but I kept having to remind myself that he is two years younger and perhaps needs a bit of an easier challenge than his older brother.  Even Ben was inspired, and so disappointed in himself that he can't read chapter books yet (but he did get in many, many, many first reader books.)

There are two and a half weeks left, and we still have one more epic weekend camping trip, plus one last soccer tournament and two more games.  The weeks have flown by, but there will be no regrets as the temperatures cool and school starts up again.  What a blast we have had.

Friday, 31 July 2015

School spirit

If you speak with me even for a few minutes about my kids' school, you will quickly catch the enthusiasm I have for it. We enrolled our children in the local Francophone school (different from French Immersion.) There are about 120 kids in the school now, up from 75 when Colin started in senior kindergarten. Almost every class is a split grade (which I love.)  There are a grand total of 9 teachers in the whole school.  My kids have had 6/9 of them, and we will add one more to that total come September.  The principal, the secretary and all the teachers know all the students. There are many opportunities for learning and interaction with children of all ages.  Plus the french language education is exquisite.  18/20 new junior kindergarten students do not speak any french at all on their first day of school (despite having at least one parent fluent in the language.)  By December, they are all fluent.  While the school may lack in fundraising capabilities (because of the low number of families) and extra curricular activities (due to manpower), I still love our choice.

One recent memory has been permanently etched in my mind, and it exemplified the great big family quality that our school has.  At the end of the year talent show, the grade 5/6 class performed a dance to the popular french song "Magic in the Air." It's a super fun dance song, with a great beat that makes you want to get up and move.  As soon as the first few notes rang through the gym, the rest of the students cheered; clearly this was a song popular in every grade.  The 5/6 students were cheered through the first half of the song, clapping, whistling.  But then, bit by bit, the rest of the school could no longer hold back.  Everyone was soon on their feet, students and teachers and parents alike, as we all sang and danced along.  Over 200 people moved in unison, feeling the energy of the song and the school.

Our school is such a great example of community.  Everyone is working together, living together, loving together.  This isn't just a bunch of bricks guarding our kids for 6 hours a day.  This is a place we are growing together.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

One square house

I'm in a mood right now, and you should probably stop me if I try to list my house for sale.

We spent last week at a cottage.  It was rectangle in shape.  In the middle was one large gathering room, with couches, chairs and a fireplace on one side and a long dining room table that seated 10 on the other.  Two bedrooms stemmed off one end and two off the other.  There was a small outcropping on the side for the kitchen and bathroom.

I sat there one evening and watched the 11 children play and 8 adults chat, and I thought this is really all the space we need.  This tiny cottage had four bedrooms, which is one more than we currently have.  It had a large gathering space where many people could mingle without it feeling over crowded.  The whole thing must have been less than 500 square feet and it felt more than adequate.

I've felt similar in pioneer replicas of homes, where small spaces felt not only comfortable but even spacious, using an open concept and without stuffing them full of unnecessary things.

I'm feeling an urge to simplify again...

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


We spent last week up at a cottage with my grandmother, my sisters, my cousin, and all our little kids (11 in all.) All of my kids loved every minute, but none more than Ben. Given the freedom to explore the world at large on his own, to dig in the sand, jump in the lake, fish to his heart's content, climb over the park, and generally wander to feed his imagination, he was a completely different boy.

So often at home he gets caught in whining cycles, crying about not keeping up with his brothers, teasing his sister, a little lost for what to do. He's like a lion pacing in a cage and it all explodes in bad behaviour. I always knew he did better out of doors, but to see him thrive like that was joyful. Now I have to figure out a way to keep this boy out of doors all summer.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Answering our own prayers

A great thought I read about the other day - the tendency in our culture to answer our own prayers.  Often in our prayer life, we pray for things like "please keep us safe and warm" and then we turn on the heat when the temperature drops. Or we say "give us this day our daily bread" and then jump in our car to buy some from the store. We answer our own prayers.

Do I have faith to pray for things I can't answer? What miracles are awaiting me if I could only step out of the safety of what I already know? Can I stretch myself to ask for something only God could answer?

I feel like when I pray, I shouldn't be too much of a bother. I express gratitude for blessings I have, all too aware that I have more than most people in this world could possibly imagine. I feel like I should save my "asking" for times when I really need something to go my way. But there seems to be this gap in my prayer habit - this space for God to move in extraordinary ways, in ways that I couldn't possibly imagine. There are paths he has for me that aren't even tiny bubbles of thought in my mind. I have all these ideas of what things I could do and how my life could take shape, and somehow that is actually limiting me. I'm not giving God room to move in my life and take me down unimaginable roads.

Prayer doesn't have to be reserved only for special times. I think God could make our lives filled with extraordinary things if we only open ourselves to his possibilities.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

A little work and the coolness factor

"You guys can watch a little TV after lunch while I do some work." I offered.
"What work do you have to do?" Caleb inquired.
"I'm working on movie screenplay.  I have to write more pages today."
"A a real movie script?" Caleb's eyes widened.
"So, will it be in the theatres?"
"That's the idea."
"Will your name be in the credits?"

My coolness factor doubled today.  Maybe even tripled.  Funny enough, I've had several films I've worked on appear in theatres, all which featured my name in the credits.  Most of this was before kids (although not all.)  It blows ours kids' minds that we had alternate lives before we had them.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

When life's not fair

No matter that I believe in God and a higher plan, sometimes life just isn't fair.  An old childhood friend lost her husband to a tragic ATV accident last week.  He leaves behind his wife and three young children, ages 2, 6 and 8.  When I heard the news, my stomach dropped, and stayed that way for days.  These are the kinds of things you hear about on the news, or the kinds of the things that happen to "friends of friends" or "people you heard of."  This one just hit so close to home.

In an instant, everything she thought her life would look like changed.  The plans and dreams were shattered.  Life will go on for her and her children, but it won't remotely resemble how she thought it all would go.

I stand at quite a few big crossroads right now.  In the past year we have been making some decisions that could change the course of where we are headed.  But they have been deliberate choices, carefully thought out and prayed over.  This tragedy in my friend's life reminds me that for all my planning, for all my careful execution, in an instant things spin in a completely different direction.

Knowing this friend, I have been able to imagine the heartache she feels at a much more connected level than I usually would.  I have imagined the sobs coming out in gasps, the neverending stream of tears, the lonely ache at night, and the pain of hugging her fatherless children.  She has a strong faith and the support and love of so many friends and family, but none of that can ease the moment when you just have to cry.

I am holding everyone a little closer these days.


Things Juliette says that are beyond adorable:

"Awk-ward!" (and totally in the right context, too!)

"Last-er-night" (last night, yesterday, well - really it means anything in the past, even if it was only a few hours ago)

"I would like pancakes with syrup and a plate."  (James thought this one was really strange, until I explained that only at breakfast does she get pancakes with syrup, on a plate.  If she asks for a pancake later in the day, she can have it as a snack, in her hand, without syrup.)

"That's not the deal."  (I don't know where she picked up on how to make a deal, but she certainly knows when she doesn't like the deal being made.)

Friday, 19 June 2015


Six years ago I wrote a children's book. Then I out it on the shelf because in order to finish it, I needed to collaborate with a photographer. 

Six years later, I am a photographer. I think it's time to get that book out again. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


I have a saying:

"If I'm running, it's because something is chasing me, so you better run, too,"

Running is all the rage right now.  Almost everyone I know is doing it.  And I can't stand running.  I love biking and walking, and I choose one or the other over driving every single time I can.  When I was in university, there were some days when I had nothing planned that I would just start out walking from my east end apartment, and keep going for eight or nine hours before hopping on a streetcar back home.  I love to read about CS Lewis' weekend walking trips, when he and a few friends would walk the moors of England for days on end.

But I do not run.

That being said, this morning I did I 5K.  Speed walking, not running, but it felt pretty neat to say "this morning I did a 5K."  I happened to arrive at the trail at the same time as a group of moms I know and their babies in strollers, so I "joined" their group, graciously saying for them to go on ahead and not wait for me.  Most of the group was out of eye shot pretty quick, but my speed walking was nearly as fast as the mom ahead of me.  In fact, I only finished about 2 minutes behind that first group at the end. It's not the speed I protest, but the actual running motion.  That up and down jogging, landing on your knees, jiggling everything to no end.

Good weather is here and I like to get up and going early.  I hope to walk, bike or kayak every morning at least for the next two weeks until school is out.  The summer might prove harder, with kids at different speeds, but we all love to be active outdoors so we'll figure something out.

Monday, 15 June 2015

These summer days

It's not quite summer and these days are filling up.  Not filling up-busy, just filling up with fun.  Soccer, bike rides, in-line skating, parks, music, play dates, writing, reading, playing.  The sun is out and everyone is revelling in the sunshine.

So I might check in here a little less than usual.  (An admission after a two week absence already!)  My heart and hands are full, which has meant less spilling out onto the page.  But that's okay.  A new season will come and I will find myself here again more frequently.

Monday, 1 June 2015

To my past cinematographers

To my past cinematographers:

As a director, I spent many long hours and days on set, creating beautiful moments with my actors and making sure the camera captured the action just the right way.  I had a vision in my mind and I worked tirelessly to bring it to the screen.  I knew the importance of a talented cinematographer in order to achieve that dream and so I hand picked each and every one of you for your talent, and, more specifically, your eye.

Yet there were many times I waited impatiently as you set up lights, placed bounced boards, took meter readings, and stared at the same scene for what seemed like eons.  I heard you saying "I'm perfecting the light" but my untrained eye could not detect any difference between the bounce board this way or that, could not determine why it wasn't good enough yet.  It all looked the same to me.

Fast forward a decade as I have now translated my experience as a director and my training in film to a photography business.  And now, I see it.  Now the burnt honey light at golden hour catches my breath.  Now the sunny haze settles around me.  Now I see the illumination on the milky skin of a newborn.  Now I race for my camera when the sharpness of the light falls perfectly across the living room floor.  Now I stand, for eons, and let my eyes adjust to the subtle nuances of light on my subjects, knowing the contours that will emerge in the final portrait.

To all my past cinematographers, I'm sorry.  Now I see what you saw.  Thank you for your patience and example so that I, too, may emerge as a photographer.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

White Oleander

We read White Oleander for book club this month.  It's a story that spans 8 years as a teenage girl goes through foster care.  If I read fiction books, I tend to choose things that are classics, historical fiction, or uplifting stories.  If things get too dark or disturbing I don't usually continue reading.  But this book was different.  The foster system is can be full of dark and disturbing things, and this time I didn't want to turn away from that reality.  I felt a great urge to push through and come face to face with what some in this world have to live with.

I have lived a charmed life.  I grew up in a home with loving, supportive parents.  I am in a wonderful marriage with a husband who works hard and loves his family.  While we have had our share of challenges, it is not the sort of physical, spiritual and emotional harm the character in this story endured.  And this time I didn't want to turn a blind eye.  I wanted to really sit with it, to be sure that my eyes remain opened to the pain in this world, that I might not fool myself into thinking we live once gain in Eden.  Stories like these sit with me, leave an indelible mark, and move me toward change.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The circle of life

We are surrounded by physical and metaphorical reminders that life has a natural cycle.  Winter comes to bring a dying end to the year.  Leaves bud, bloom, wither and fall.  Insects have life cycles of weeks or even days.  Small animals might be birthed in the spring and not see even a year.  The sun rises and sets each day.

And yet we are so frightened of death.  We cling and sob, and our hearts break over the loss.  It is utterly inevitable and yet we cannot seem to come to terms with it.

I read a story this week of a tribal village in which their tiny women (average 100 lbs) birth on average 13 pound babies.  But if you just cringed a little, there's no need.  These women birth with little to no pain.  How?  It is attributed to the lack of fear associated with the event.  When a mother goes into labour, the women of the village come around her, and they walk, sway, move as one, singing and chanting as they go.  The moment is being celebrated and supported and suddenly the baby slips out.  How different from our North American version, fraught with fear, filled with anguish, tales of horror.  No matter how much I tried to calm and reassure myself the culture of fear was so deeply imbedded it was inescapable.

I wonder if the same is true of death.  If we could see it as a natural part of life, a celebrated journey coming to a close.  Perhaps, depending on your faith, the beginning of a new journey.  There are glimpses of such in our culture, but far too little.  Yes, even in tragedy perhaps there could be an easing of pain if we embraced the idea of a circle of life, evidenced all around us.  Even a life that has not attained what we in America would term "a good life span."  Perhaps if we could better understand that the circles are all different lengths.  Perhaps if we could love and live every day.

I think it is only when death touches closely that we truly start to wade through these ideas.  But if they were better understood on a whole, a natural part of conversation that begins with birth, then perhaps we might not find it all so strange and fearsome when it does come.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Soccer season

We are on the doorstep of soccer season...full on soccer season.  We will have soccer games or practices Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening every week from now until the end of August.  I'm a little trepidatious, but also quite excited.  Because of our busy nights, I'm keeping the days low key.  We have one week of camping in July and one week in August, but other than that the days are for playing, exploring, and spur of the moment adventures.

Colin had his first rep soccer game last week, and lost in a very close match.  The other teams we play against are from big cities with serious soccer movements.  Their players practice multiple nights a week and have been training seriously for many years.  Orangeville is much more relaxed.  In fact, this is Colin's first year playing in the league.  Our team was evenly matched against the other team, but the difference is our team is just raw talent.  Once they start to really train, I can't wait to see what they can do.

Caleb is excited to get into a real league.  In the past the kids have played in a pick up league, which they sort of (unfairly) dominated.  I'm hoping that he will have some teammates who also have a real love of the game and also a little skill so that he can improve his own abilities.

Ben is just excited to play period.  We picked up his uniform tonight and he immediately put it on and wouldn't take it off.

Juliette doesn't yet know she won't get to play.  I pulled out an old uniform from Colin's first year and gave it to her.  She keeps asking when she gets to play "on the field."  Not until next year, darling!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

What shall I do today?

Choosing to become a supply teacher really did a number on my stomach and nerves.

Because I'm an unqualified (emergency) supply, I am literally a last resort.  Which usually means a phone call about 30 minutes before school starts.  Sometimes it's the night before, sometimes it's early morning.  But whenever it comes (or doesn't), it's always about waiting and wondering.  And given that I don't have a cell phone, it also means worrying that I'm missing a job if I happen to go out.  It has also meant putting all other plans on hold, or being unable to make plans at all, just in case I get a call that day.

It was stressing me out.  I didn't know how else to handle it.  Until the answer came, still and small, but clear as a bell:

you only need to know what you need to do today.

Every day my day was going to look different, and I was worrying ahead into the week about how it was all going to go.  What I realized is that I could have a different calling or purpose for each and every day.  That might not be determined until 9:30 am (when no more phone calls were likely to come for that day), and that's okay.  If I get a phone call, my focus that day will be on teaching.  If it doesn't come, or I miss it, then God has something different in mind for me that day.  The point is not to be disappointed or fretting about not getting a call.  It isn't about if they like me or need me; in fact, I'm such small beans in the big scheme of running a school.  What was becoming hugely important to me was not even a fleck of dust to a vice principal somewhere.

I realize I have a gift right now, a chance to hone the skill of being spiritually in tune with the day and being sure to pass these moments exactly as I should.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Defining life

Growing up, I always knew that my mom wanted to be a teacher.  She achieved that goal as I was finishing high school.  The story was well known of how she knew by the age of five years that was what she wanted to do.  Once she finally graduated and was hired on, she loved every second of it.  She clearly had one passion, one drive, and she worked tirelessly toward it and then tirelessly in it.

I have struggled in comparison.  I never felt one specific calling; instead I have felt pulled in many directions.  Every time I try to make a defining decision some other part of me starts to rear up in protest.

I have been a music teacher.
I have been a filmmaker.
I have been an advertiser.
I have been an accountant.
I have been a photographer.
I have been a teacher.

And those are the paid careers.

I am a mother.
I am a wife.
I am a children's ministry leader.
I am a bible study leader.

Those are my volunteer areas.

I love libraries.
I love conducting.
I love traveling.
I love the theatre.
I love writing.

Those are my interests.

I feel like I could have a "career" in every single one of these areas and be overjoyed.  If I had to choose to spend every day for the rest of my life in any one of these, I absolutely could.

And yet I feel such a strong pull to each one.  I feel as though, instead, I can't simply choose to devote the time a career takes (40 hours a week, for example) to just one, because it would squeeze out too much.  I feel as though, instead, I will be the sort to always be moving, shifting, changing.

Sunday, 3 May 2015


I have a full time teaching gig for this week, probably two weeks, possibly longer.

I have just had a two hour crash course in everything I need to know.

Here goes nothing.  Or everything.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015


On our hike this morning, when we spotted two Canadian Geese:

Juliette:  Look!  There's the mommy, and there's the darling.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Title: bold and underlined

One of my favourite things is to open a new word document file, and write a title in the centre, bold and underlined.  Then I press "return" twice and tab in to a new paragraph.

I have done this countless, countless, countless times.  I have new story and novel and book and screenplay ideas daily.  At least once a week I have an idea that is really worth sitting down over.  At least once a month I actually sit down and go through the ritual of opening a new document as described above.

These days, however, most of the files remain unfinished and collect digital dust.

I'm about to start again, and I wish I could figure out why I can't follow through to the end.  (Is it perhaps that I'm raising four young busy children and my brain can't seem to function after 8pm anymore?)  I also know that I generally have trouble with the follow-through on projects.  I'm all fired up at the beginning but I can't seem to slog through the tough muddy parts to the glorious home-stretch and finish.  Somehow new ideas fill up the space that should be dedicated to enduring to the end.

One of these days I'll finish one of these projects.  Until then, I'll just keep continuing to bold and underline my best intentions.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Brain rot

Night falls, kids tucked in bed.  My time.

And I'm wasting it.  Over and over and over again.

I turn on a radio program and play word games on my iPod.  I flip on a movie.  I read a book.

I have so little creative time, so little work time.  I should be much more efficient with those precious after-bed hours.

And just like when I rashly opt for junk food and fill my body with trash and deeply regret the decision an hour later, so too has my brain rot been catching up with me.

I go to bed exhausted and disappointed with myself.  I awake fresh and bright with promises to use my mind in better ways that night.

And come evening I once again find myself mentally and emotionally and physically spent.

It's been two weeks since I wrote here, which is the really telling sign that my mind is on auto-pilot.  I haven't had a creative thought in two weeks, nor a parenting moment I wished to celebrate, nor an idea to explore.

Brain rot.

It spills over into the day.  I'm hot tempered and have lost all patience.  The introvert in me is screaming all day and all I want to do is hike away up a mountain and camp out in the silence.

I have a good ration of alone time, a healthy dose of music making, enough spiritual food and time in adult company.  And yet I feel like I'm starving for more and more and more.

I hope it's just the extra long winter.  I've always been tied to the weather and we've had an unusually cold April.  It snowed today.  We've barely been into double digit temperatures.  Yes, perhaps what I really need is a good dose of sunshine.

Monday, 6 April 2015


(playing house with Juliette)

"Now I'll be the Mommy and you be the Sweetie."

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The non-entrepreneur

If someone asked me, I would say without hesitation that I am not an entrepreneur.  No, I don't like risk.  No, I don't like being out on my own.  No, I don't like the thrill of the unknown.  Yes, I prefer worker bee jobs, where I can put my nose to the grindstone and be a part of something bigger.

And yet, as I'm looking at the next stage of my life, and as I'm examining myself a little deeper (ah, the benefits of growing older!) I'm coming to see myself quite differently.

I've always loved teaching.  But as an introvert, being with people all day is physically and emotionally draining.  I have loved my days supply teaching, but I'm exhausted when I walk in the door.  Teaching is probably not high on the list of ideal professions for an introvert.

Funny enough, as I look back on my "work history" - things I've chosen to do and have loved to do, every single one of them has been entrepreneurial.  I began as a private piano teacher.  Then I tutored students in French.  Then I freelanced in the film industry.  I had a job at an advertising agency while I was in university, but even in that I was on contract, and moved around to different departments, creating my own job description as I went.  During motherhood I freelanced as a writer and film assistant director.  Lately I've been looking into publishing and book editing.

But when I really started to realize my innate draw to entrepreneurship was this week as I came up with a pretty great new business idea.  I was out on a walk with Juliette, observed one thing and another, and the pieces came together with a life of their own, like magnets drawn to each other.  As I considered my surprising ability to put the details together so quickly, I realized that I probably have new business ideas at least on a weekly basis.  I also have new story ideas just as often.

I think what I've come to realize is that I am an ideas person.  What I lack is the desire to move to the next step, to take a financial risk on these ideas.  I suppose if I had a trust fund sitting around (I actually know a few too many people who had just such resources) it would be easier to take the bull by the horns.  But when stepping out with these ideas means gambling the money that would pay the mortgage or put food on the table, well, then I just shrink back to the security blanket of a worker bee job.

Friday, 20 March 2015


I love to take small moments and see the beauty in the world around me.

The other day I was waiting for Colin to finish at cubs, and he was dragging his feet.  When James finally texted me through a friend to ask where I was, I insisted Colin get a move on.  As I dragged him out of the building, I was caught between rushing to pick up James and the kids and being stopped in my tracks at the breathtaking shade of blue in the evening sky, just before all the light disappeared.  The sky was actually glowing.

"Colin, let's go NOW.  Hurry and get in the car.  But first notice how amazing that shade of blue is in the sky!"

As we darted through the parking lot, we kept our eyes fixed on the liquid blue that blanketed the world beneath.  We leapt in the car and I continued my lecture.

"Colin, you are going to have to apologize to your Dad for keeping him waiting."
"Yes, but if I had come when you first asked," Colin replied, "We would have missed that amazing sky."


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Canada Reads

This week I've been listening in to the radio program "Canada Reads" on CBC radio.  (I love CBC.  I definitely consider our public broadcaster a national treasure.)  For five days, five panelists debate the merits of five Canadian books, and eliminate one each day until only one remains as "the book that Canadians should read this year."

Particularly interesting is this year's theme: one book to break barriers.  Books this year are all dealing with fringe themes, like immigration, religious extremism, a gay teen, aging, and racism towards First Nations people.  So thematically the debates are interesting on their own. I also like that they touch on the art and craft of writing itself, examining the merits of the book as a work of art.

But more than all this, however, I am enjoying the art of debate.  The debaters are understand the form of a debate, directly answering questions posed, and waiting patiently to rebut.  The moderator is respected and keeps the conversation on point.  Debaters are defending their own book choice, but also are able to graciously concede the strengths of books other than their own.  When negative points must be made, they are made with tact and from a well-thought out standpoint, without any feeling of attack.

I have a deep love of good conversation and a well-constructed debate.  So few people understand the different between debate and argument.  Too often I think I'm in a debate, then the other person seems to either a) feel personally attacked by a point against their position or b) continuously return back to points already made.  It's frustrating to listen, watch, or participate in a debate when the other person doesn't understand the art form.  Which is why I'm so enjoying the Canada Reads debates this year.  Plus, I've been introduced to a handful of new books and authors I'm excited to delve into (Canadian authors are among my favourite in the world.  Our library tags the spines of books with common genres like mystery, religious, and Canadian, and I will often simply choose books from the shelf because of that little red maple leaf.)

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Colinism and Calebite

Today, my two oldest boys, had their very first fight.

I've been saying over the past year or so, as I observe their relationship, that they are more like best friends than brothers.  (Until today) I could not remember a single time when they fought or teased like most brothers.  They are the same size, and Caleb has always pushed himself to be at Colin's level in almost every area.  The result has been that they have found playmates rather than annoyances in each other.

Today, however, something was off.  It began with a wonderful hockey creation built by the two of them: a hockey rink complete with arena and players on the ice.  The detail was incredible and I noted that I would like to take a picture.  Colin asked if we could submit the photo to the Lego contest, to which I agreed.

Then the floodworks opened.  Caleb was excited to be a part of it.  Colin insisted his brother's participation was so limited it didn't count.  So Caleb decided to take apart any piece he had built.  Both boys were quickly in tears, sobbing about the injustice and so genuinely sad I was surprised by the emotion.

Caleb fled to his bedroom.  Colin fled outside.

After ten minutes, I went looking after the two of them.  I found Caleb flung across his bed, sobbing into his pillow.  I found Colin outside shovelling snow off the back deck with a determined face.  Another ten minutes passed and I checked in on Caleb to find him staring sadly out the bedroom window at his brother, who was still shovelling.

I was struck by the fight, and once again, how it was more like how best friends fight than brothers.  With siblings, the fight usually descends into name calling, teasing, destroying toys, or even shove or two.  But with friends, it's the self-imposed separation that feels tortuous.

Within the hour I found the two of them together again, united in a game of mini sticks.  "Did you make up?" I asked and their happy reply was "of course!"

And once again their best friend relationship is restored.  They shared novels back and forth, worked together to clear the back deck (for ball hockey), and shared in Colin's successes on his soccer team (when my mom called, Caleb's only news was a play by play of Colin's previous game and goals.)  How wonderful these two have each other.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Spiritual leadership

I find myself in numerous positions of spiritual leadership this year.  If you had asked me as a confident teenager I would have said that I relished leadership positions, but in the last ten years I have realized that I much prefer being a little worker bee.  Mostly this is because I like getting a task and then going back to my little corner to complete said task.

This year I have found a new hardship to leadership - the task of standing strong for others.  Each week requires me to reach into my own spiritual reserve and mentor others who are brand new in their faith, or perhaps even still seeking for something.  Even more than that, I have found myself as a mother mentor, a good 6 or 7 years ahead of most of the women in my study group, and just on par with the others.

I find myself craving sage words of advice and experience from one who has gone before me.  This year I have suddenly realized that I lack such a mentor for myself in my own journey.  I am not one to step out of a comfortable circle, which makes it hard for me to make new friends.  Usually I can only manage to get at ease with someone who has quite a bit in common with me.  Otherwise I can spend most of the time in utter silence, desperate to come up with something to say.  this girl doesn't do small talk.

I have one friend who is five years ahead, and who just happens to have a carbon copy of my family (children, ages, sex, birth order, and even personalities of each one, plus each of us as a couple are uncannily alike.)  But she in a busy stage of life herself and still without enough distance from those young years to garner enough perspective.

So now I'm on the lookout for a mentor for myself, someone to sit with me, share with me, and help me fill up so that I can pour out into those women I am leading.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Do Your Time

"Why are middle school girls skipping the awkward stage and going straight to pretty?  No, no, you get to wear braces and blue eye shadow.  Do your time."

I chuckled a good while at that quote online today.  I sat firmly in those awkward middle school years for far too long, with wild red hair that wouldn't be tamed and a bright red pimple that stubbornly stayed on my chin far too long and teeth that actually begged for braces and a the terrible luck to be stuck in the transition from 80s to 90s fashion (which I still find awkward in its current revival.)  I laughed because I have made this same comment more than once lately as I watch the children under my care at church turn 12 and suddenly blossom overnight into pretty teenagers and I wonder why I didn't have such fortune.

But this little nugget has a deeper and sometimes sadder truth to it also.  Last week I sat in prayer with a young mother whose second baby was only two weeks old, and she wept at the sense of failure that overwhelmed her because her toddler was running rampant and her baby wasn't sleeping and why-oh-why-couldn't-she-get-it-together?  This morning I sent out a message to her again and I could hear the tears again in her reply that this morning was no better than yesterday or the day before or the day before that.

I offered some comfort, and yet knew that my experience could not reach through to her.  Experience must be earned through experience.  This is a gentler way of saying that we all must "do our time."  I cried every day the first year of Caleb's life.  I remember well the wave of utter exhaustion that held me under.  I turned to hear from friends who had already passed through this stage and somehow still couldn't pull myself out with their sage words of advice.  I realize now that although I could receive their love and comfort, there was no way for me to figure it all out other than simply putting another foot forward.

Similarly, I hear friends of teenagers weep as their hearts break for their children, and I naively look on and try to understand and file away parenting wins so that my own travels through teenagehood will not be so painful.  And yet there is an echo in my mind: "do your time."  I will never truly understand until I am walking in those very footsteps.  And then, as now, any attempt I make to capture any wisdom garnered and pass it on to those whom I mentor will ultimately be in vain.

Life is about passing from one stage to the next.  We "do our time" in each one and emerge on the other side victorious, only to be on the edge of the next stage.  Not every stage is hard and painful, for this is a life to have joy.  But even those moments of pure, unadulterated joy cannot be adequately expressed.  It is for all this that we have come to walk this mortal life.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015


A beautiful metaphor was captured the other day by a friend.  An image of each of us standing as candles, our gathered flames illuminating the world around us.  Each, on our own, lights but a small circle, but standing shoulder to shoulder the fiery glow creates a powerful brightness.  In such proximity, even a candle that goes out can be relit by the nearness to other flames.  And, in speaking of light, our tiny flame in nothing in relation to the great light that is the sun (Son.)

Every word was laced with beauty and truth.  My mind wandered through the essay and nodded at this thought, that idea.  But when it closed, my mind had not finished wandering.  It was guided on in the metaphor as it pulled the images into my own life, for this day, this moment, this year.  Once again, the future was vaguely opened for me.

This year you will not stand on a dais of candles, each shimmering light dancing in unison.  This year you will stand alone and learn the coldness of human life and the dreariness of the world.  But you will not shiver; nor will you feel the loneliness.  No, this year you will learn what it is to stand in the Great Light, to be lit day in and day out by your proximity to the Son.  You will see that your little light, when held up to the sun, is nothing but a vain effort.  You will work tirelessly to be a light to others, to stand on a hill and not hide behind the bushes, but it will not be your tiny flame they see.  For what candle can hope to light anything around it under the warmth of a brilliant summer sun?  And if your light flickers, it will never go out if you stay close to the powerful source of all light.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Dream a little dream

After being unsettled this week, I thought I'd jot down some of the little dreams that are circling in my head.

Traveling and learning with my children.  I so want to combine my love of homeschooling, which I have yet to do, with my love of traveling.  But more so, I want to expose my children to things beyond our little town.  I want to give them a passion for the people and places of the world.

In order to do this, we need to have work that allows us the freedom to travel for extended periods at a time (one to three months, likely.)  This definitely means a change from where we are now, running a business that requires day to day management.  That might also mean choosing to supply teach rather than take my own full time classroom.  It also means helping my husband in his own change of careers to something that allows him to work from anywhere he can plug in a computer.

Getting a masters degree.  There has always been a small part of me that leaped when I heard someone talk of getting a masters or doctorate degree.  While formal schooling is not my goal, learning from brilliant minds is.  I had a professor in university who taught film theory and film history, and she spoke from the depths of her experience as part of the underground film movement in communist Russia.  She did not teach from textbooks but from life itself.  I want to sit at the feet of minds like that, soak it in, and engage with it back and forth.

Write.  I'm frustrated that I don't know what it is I'm to write yet.  I have so many passionate projects in my mind, on my computer, falling from my fingers onto the keys, and yet I have not pursued anything. In the meantime I write and write and write away, anxious to have more direction about where this is all heading.

Music.  I am fulfilling a dream as I learn the violin right now.  But I haven't yet found my place among fellow musicians.  I yearn for a small group that gathers regularly (monthly? bi-weekly?) and simply pours their hearts out together in creating and performing.  We all have busy lives, but it is something I would make time for, if only I could find others with a similar passion.

Deliberate mothering.  I feel like like I've been hanging on to the edge for too long.  I sigh a little every time I write this because I feel like it never changes.  But one of these days I'll be a little more on top of life.  Specifically in teaching my kids, taking them outdoors, and in food preparation (especially for Juliette.)

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


Anyone else love a good unsettling?  My unsettling moments are never grand or connected to big events.  They are usually the culmination of more than a few small conversations, essays, articles and thoughts that take place over a short amount of time.  Each one provokes a new and powerful thought in my mind, and each one, though thematically unrelated, stacks upon the other until I stand atop a large shaky tower and begin to tumble.

Some of my tower blocks this week:

1. A childhood friend wrote about turning 36.  He is six months ahead of me.  He lives on the other side of the world.  He writes a couple of personal essays that are laced with loneliness, no matter the topic.  I don't know the reasons, but he seems to have a self imposed exile: physical (living in a foreign land), relational (single, while yearning for companionship), spiritual (leading out a small group of believers).  He seems unhappy and yet feels called to be such.  There is a mantle of martyrdom that he seems to wear heavily.

2.  A woman bleeding her heart onto the page as she wrote about her daughter, diagnosed with several behavioural problems, who can't seem to settle herself in a church setting.  The mother wrote painfully about the importance spiritually, relationally, and emotionally for her daughter to be in a church setting, and yet how hard it was to watch her daughter's loud, rude, and inappropriate outbursts towards a very patient and loving congregation.  She poured out her pain and problems without offering any solutions, because she had yet to find any.

3.  This quote (from the mother above): "Something that keeps coming up in these discussions is that my daughter's bad behaviour drives away the Spirit, which diminishes (or ruins) the experience for everyone else.  Our daughter's behaviour is bad.  It doesn't make other people feel good.  But it doesn't make the Spirit flee the room because where the Spirit goes is the Spirit's business. We invite the Spirit to be with us - we're promised, after we're baptized and confirmed, the the Spirit will be our constant companion as long as we keep a place within ourselves for it to stay. My daughter may be driving the Spirit away from herself, but she doesn't have the power to banish it from the room or command it to leave other people."

4.  A high school friend living in Nicaragua.  I don't know why, we aren't in touch any longer (except via Facebook.)  Sometime after the death of his mother it seems he fled to South America.

5.  A conversation about experiencing faith in the way you need to, and how that will look different from even the person sitting next to you at church.  You might hold the same doctrinal beliefs, but you also might access spiritual things in a completely different way.  And that is both all right, and good.  And beneficial to both you personally and the body of the church as a whole.

6.  Flipping through photos of a friend who went on an educational trip in his last year of high school.  Taking an entire semester in Europe, seeing the art in person and standing on historical ground and soaking up the culture first-hand.

7.  Some advice to a friend that echoed back to my own heart: "If that university course is not possible, then find another way.  You have this talent and training, so go get that learning and understanding.  Then go out into the world and make up your own job.  We are so used to the prescribed number of traditional careers (teacher, doctor, lawyer, etc.) and the traditional way of getting there.  But that isn't the way any longer.  You must look at yourself, your loves, your talents, and then go out there and use them in this world.  If the job you want doesn't exist, create it.

8.  "This vast display of stars has been held in place by the sure, strong hands of God for thousands of years, through wars, tragedies, sadness and disasters of every kind.  Not one year of our history has shake the power or control of God."

8.  "Be willing to be undone."

As I tumble from my little tower, I clench my fists at the overpowering emotions.  On one side I see a safe little existence, exactly what might be expected of where I am now.  On the other side I see adventure and the unknown laced with fear.  I don't want to be at either extreme.  I feel both a pull and a push toward something just beyond my comfort zone.  I feel called to something different - not more, or better, or greater, just different.  Something that says "don't worry about what is safe and traditional."  It assures me "adventure doesn't have to be reckless, or permanent, or only 7 days every 5 years."  It promises "a path carved out just for me, where you can have tradition and adventure."  But it does warn "you cannot cling to what you know simply because it is familiar.  To have adventure you must be willing to step out."

Friday, 13 February 2015

The first few days

I've had my first few calls to supply teach.  It was an initiation into the profession that would test the strongest resolve.

All the calls have been at one school.  (I have since learned that they have the earliest start time, which is why they call first.  I've actually missed calls from other schools because the secretaries weren't arriving until I was already in class at this first school.)  The school is well known to be the roughest in town.

My first call was into the grade eight class.  It's a hard age, because respect is earned bit by bit for these kids, and a supply teacher is starting at zero.  The first two hours were a write off.  No one listened to a word I said.  I have experience with this age group, but this was a whole new level of rudeness and apathy.  Then, the French teacher came in and showed me the ropes.  Four kids were in the principal's office within the first five minutes.  The rest were read the riot act.  Finally there was a semblance of order.  When the class returned from recess, I took a firmer hand.  I still had to send two more to the office (for repeatedly jumping up onto the counters) but at least I had some control.  It required a constant and vigilant overseeing and monitoring to make sure they were on task.  I overheard a lively conversation about which alcohol they preferred.  I witnessed one withdrawn girl using an x acto blade as a bookmark.  18 out of 24 of the kids were boys, and more than half were part of the behavioural class.  And as a special point of pride, they pointed out they had never had a supply teacher twice.  At least I learned that I'm still up to snuff on my algebra.

My second call was to a lovely grade 2/3.  I brought my guitar and we sang a song to learn names, accompanied a rendition of O Canada, and sang some other fun game songs.  I captured their attention with a dramatic reading of a story which they then had to finish off.  When their teacher returned at lunch, they proclaimed that I was fun and awesome and that they loved me.

My third call was to the learning disability (LD) class.  7 students who don't learn well in the traditional classroom setting and who are all far behind their grade level.  With only a few reminders, they all worked independently all morning on their assigned work.  Interesting that both the gifted and the LD class (each end of the learning spectrum) children are encouraged to work independently.  It only strengthens my resolve to encourage a classroom setting that helps children learn based on their interests, abilities, and at their own speed.

I now have to play a tricky game of chance.  Part of my goal in supply teaching is to make myself known in all the schools in Orangeville so that I can increase my chances of being hired when I finish my Masters.  The one school that is calling me has offered 3 days of work out of a possible five, which contributes greatly to the need to earn money.  Unfortunately, as their school day starts 30 minutes before many others, I am losing out on teaching at other schools by accepting every job they call with.  So now I will have to see how I can manage to achieve both the goal of making some money and the goal of getting known around town.

Thursday, 12 February 2015


"My favourite colour is unicorn."

Thursday, 5 February 2015

For the first time in nine years

Today, for the first time in over nine years, I was not home for 1pm naptime.

Over the past couple of weeks Juliette hasn't been tired every day for nap.  She still needs naps at least every other day, but there have been a few afternoons which I spent over an hour trying to get her to go to sleep while she just played happy as a lark.

So today, since she napped the last two days, and since she slept well last night and woke up early, I let go of the rigid schedule to which I have held.  I picked up her friend and we went swimming, and then we went out for lunch and a play.  I met a friend and her son, and we chatted freely without my watching the clock.  After I dropped her friend off I needed to pick something up from the store, so we did.

It is so freeing.  For the first time I dont' feel the time crunch between getting the kids off to school and being home by noon so that a kid doesn't fall asleep in the car.  I had one more thing to do, so I did it.  And now I'm home and I have time to prep dinner and tidy up and even write a little.  (You'll notice my writing has been spotty lately, because in order to get Juliette her much needed nap I often had to lie down with her, eliminating my two hour window in the afternoon.)

This feels like the first step of "the next stage," and while I might miss the toddler cuddles at naptime, it's a relief to finally be able to attend gatherings, parties, and events scheduled in the afternoon.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Stay at home mother

I read this great excerpt from the book "Sacred Influence."  Choosing to have one parent stay at home to raise the children and keep the home is one we made deliberately, and we have both sacrificed in ways to make this a reality.  In Victorian England, Charlotte Rothschild was 17 years old when she married Lionel.

"At first, Charlotte had difficulty adjusting to her life as a young wife.  Lionel's business kept him away for most of the day, and Charlotte lapsed into self-pity, thinking of herself as a neglected bride."

I do find it hard and sometimes lonely as James keeps the long hours he must to keep his business going. I know how important the work is does is, not only to provide for our family but to also provide for the other ten families of our employees that rely on our business.  But even this knowledge cannot combat the natural yearning for companionship.

"Charlotte's father eventually stepped in and urged her to stop feeling sorry for herself and instead find ways to offer immense practical help to Lionel and stop making a scene when he came home.  "Tell your husband he should assiduously visit diplomats in order to hear the news... You should try to find out what is happening in London.

"Charlotte took this advice to heart.  Instead of wasting energy on complaining, she put that same energy to work on Lionel's behalf.  'Soon it was Charlotte... who was efficiently entertaining diplomats, Cabinet ministers, princes, and peers.  Her guests evidenced her pragmatism; Charlotte knew she did not even have to like them.

"The two lovers merged into an indissoluble team, a united force to make their mark in this world.  They became arguably the most commercially successful couple of their day."

It can feel, at times, when I've listened to screaming all day, when my only accomplishment has been to fold laundry, and when I'm facing another evening on my own, a lonely road I have chosen.  This story has stuck with me as I contemplate my days and ways in which I may not just be a helpmeet to my husband, but make myself useful and indispensable.  I would one day hope that the descriptions "indissoluble team," "united force" and "successful couple" might be said of us.


The other day we were discussing what it means to have a "hard heart."  Colin's answer:

"It means you have no love juice."

Monday, 26 January 2015


The winds of change are blowing hard here.

This month James' dad passed on to the next life.  Although we knew it was coming, it is a strange adjustment.  This is the first time that someone we interacted with on a daily basis has left us, and the hole is keenly felt.  None more so in our family than for James.  James worked every day with his dad, and there were definitely long days when he saw his dad more than even me.  I was struck as James gave a eulogy at how he knew his dad much more than just from a father-son relationship.  His dad was his friend, mentor, confident, and work partner and those are so many roles to be left empty all at once.

In a family business, this change means even more.  Our earlier plans to leave the family business and start our own video production company (helping seniors tell their life stories) went on indefinite hold.  Without Doug, James was too integral to the business to leave at this point.  Which was sad because he really hasn't been happy in his work in a long time.  It felt like our dream was snatched just as it was becoming a reality.

But all this has meant even more changes.  We have decided that I will go back to school and get my Masters of Teaching.  The plan was that, since I'd missed the admission deadline this year, I would apply next year, and in 3 1/2 years I could be teaching full time, which would give James the latitude to  once again pursue the video business.

But we suddenly came across a hiccup.  Upon investigation, it turned out the deadline for this coming September was still open.  Things went into a bit of a tailspin while we considered moving up our plans.  It seemed a great opportunity to get us back on track sooner.  And yet there was Juliette who would still be home, and the boys getting off the bus after school.  Working out childcare (logistics and costs) while I went back to school seemed daunting.

In the mean time, I had decided to do some emergency supply teaching in our local schools.  This would provide additional income and also get me into the schools to help in faster hiring after I graduate.  So this morning I went out to drop off resumes.

I was greatly encouraged, as every secretary's face showed great relief at receiving my resume, especially as I noted I could teach French and music.  Then, at one school, I heard my name called out. I turned and came face to face with an old friend.  When I told her what I was doing, her face broke out in a smile.  She was the school's music teacher, and was glad to finally have a name to call when she needed to take a day off.  She promised to put in a good word, and confided that emergency supplies are called in often.

I felt good as I drove to the final school, the high school around the corner from our home.  As I parked in the parking lot, I paused.  I realized that this was another school in which the music department was quite big, and I knew the department head well.  I was in a bible study group with his wife a few years back, and I had lobbied for him to take over leading our community band.  I sat in the car and pondered the question I had this morning: should I start university this fall, or wait one more year?  Given how well the job search was going, it occurred to me I could take an extra year to work.  Maybe this was the best plan?  I sent a prayer of gratitude up, and then a plea for direction.  If I am meant to work, please let my music teacher friend be in the office when I go in, so that I can hopefully get work in this school (closest to home, and in a subject I love.)  I jumped out and went into the large, sprawling school with over 100 staff, and went into the office.

And came face to face with that teacher.  He was the only one in the office.

My voice broke as we spoke, he unwell with a flu and I nervous and astonished.  I handed my resume in and he said he hoped to see me soon.

I had my answer.

Yes, change is coming fast and furious right now, but today I have a little blessing of peace about it all.

(Psalm 136 -  O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


Juliette sees the world through smell.  I wonder if it has anything to do with her food allergies, and that most of the smells she encounters in our kitchen she cannot partake of.  Whatever the reason, she always has her little nose going.  She sniffs out things long before we do, and always stops to "smell the roses" for a moment, her head tilted up, shifting ever so slightly from side to side.  She takes it all in, and then turns to me, "What's that smell?" she inquires.  Sometimes it is evident, sometimes I have to take a guess.  She catalogs everything and there is no fooling her about it after that.

The most amusing anecdote, though, is how quickly she smells out what is on your breath.  I cannot try to sneak a piece of chocolate or a few potato chips and then come within three feet of her.  I swear she can smell it in the air I breathe out.  Then she stops whatever she is doing (or saying) and comes in for a closer smell.  She will actually bring her nose right up to my mouth as I clamp it shut, trying to swallow down the betraying evidence.  And there is no diverting her, or even trying to claim it is something else.  The nose knows, so to speak.

I am even amazed that she remembers all the smells associated with foods she cannot have.  It is interesting to watch her explore the world of food forbidden to her.  She knows them all, even though she cannot taste each one.

She also shares my love of smells in nature: the smell of an early morning mist, or the difference between a cool fall morning and crisp winter dawn.  She notices the deepness of night, or the intrusion of something manmade.  She identifies a different smell between damp leaves and fresh rain in the trees.  It must be marvelous to experience the world so strongly in multiple senses.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

For all my book lover friends

For all my book lover friends,

I hope you are able to be part of a book club.  I am fortunate to be part of the most fantastic book club ever.  We are a small, private group, less than a dozen members, with only six or seven able to come to any one meeting.  We are a group cobbled together by friends and friends of friends, and I am amazed at how well we all gel together.  We are young moms, we are intellectuals, we love good stories and important issues.  We dissect the story and themes and often meander off of the book into the real issues at heart.  There is always good food and good conversation.

Before this group I belonged to a very different book club in Toronto.  It was organized by the local library and so the members were wide and varied.  I was by far the youngest member (I was around 25?) and most were retired.  A few were artists.  One was a writer herself.  The discussions were much more on topic, and so interesting to see the book (and the world) through viewpoints vastly different than my own, coloured by many more years of living.  Ours was a little library branch, with a wonderful librarian who must have devoured books more often than meals.  She had a knack for recommending just the right books.  I can still remember, to this day, that when I sent James looking for books for me to read during my first pregnancy (bed rest) he came home with five marvellous reads.  The only instruction I gave was that I wanted to read books set in countries around the world, and all five were a delight to read.  I don't recall her name, or even what she looked like, but she made me want to be a librarian myself.

I love to curl up with a book; reading is by definition a solitary activity.  But I have discovered a different kind of relationship one can develop with a book when the ideas are shared with friends.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015


The time is coming for me to look to the next stage of life.  A friend and I are both coming to the end of our baby-raising years and wondering what might be next.  And to look forward I have been looking back.

A good part of any interview for a job is past experience.  What in your life has brought you to this point?  I strongly believe that our life paths wind in very specific directions, and that what I have been through will lead me to where I am going.

Which is why, right now, I am once again considering education.  I have always loved teaching, but I think this mostly comes from my unusual education background.  Just taking my 14 years of compulsory schooling, I experienced:

- french immersion
- the gifted program
- the performing arts program
- foreign student exchange
- music education

After high school, I studied more in depth about music for young children, and also on various homeschooling methods.  Not to mention spending 9 years (so far) at home raising my own four children full time.  I have also taught music and drama in schools, both in my mother's classroom and in my children's classes.  Add to that the various years of teaching children at church and my resume is bursting.

I have a passion for teaching, true, but I also have a passion for reforming education.  That seems lofty and revolutionary, both of which seem far beyond my own little existence.  And yet...I constantly come back to the idea that my education shouldn't have been unusual or exceptional, but rather very common.  I benefited greatly from these varied methods and I feel every student should have these kinds of opportunities.  Imagine if, at your local school, each teacher hired had an area of expertise, like each of my teachers did.  The children wouldn't be simply placed in one class or another at random, but individually assessed at the end of grade one to determine the type of learning style best suited to him or her.  Then each child could be streamed into a class designed to maximize his or her learning.  There are so many methods out there: gifted, unschooling, art-driven, kinesthetic, hands on, traditional, Montessori, Waldorf, literature-based...and these are just some of the ones I've come across.  That's not to say every school could offer them all, but right now one teacher is desperately trying to accommodate too many learning styles.  The result is that a few are benefitting, but most are struggling, just getting by at best, or failing at worst.  Even if a school had only three teachers in a grade, you could be running three very different classrooms, and the administration could do their best to assign children to a successful environment.

As usual, when I start to write about concrete plans, I have meandered off into ideas.  Ah, it's just one path, but one toward which I certainly might have been pointed.