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."