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.