Sunday, January 21, 2007
The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m on Saturday, and we simply threw the bags in the trunk and took off. The air was bitingly frigid as we got into the car, but we pushed the thought aside for the drive. I would be lying if I said it was a peaceful journey. There was no traffic, and the scenery was beautiful, but I was so nervous that I made my stomach hurt. A sense of foreboding had taken up residence in my gut. The closer we got, the higher the hills that dotted the horizon. And by the time we pulled up, I had convinced myself we were about to ski Everest.
Well, it wasn't Everest, but the rooky Ottawa girl was awed, just the same. From start to finish Tremblant was a novelty. First, the place was run like a well-lubed machine. The flow was fantastic. Even the longest lineups at the lifts were relatively quick to get through. Second, the scale. . . BIG! The main lift up to the top was called a "gondola": An enclosed capsule with two bench seats that could accommodate up to 8 people. I came to deeply appreciate this piece of ingenuity when the cold really set it. As for the slopes themselves, they seemed never-ending. Had you strung four Edelweiss runs one behind the other, they would still not have equalled the length of a Tremblant run. They took fifteen minutes to get down. I believe we only managed 8 runs over the five hours we were skiing.
The weather, unfortunately, was prohibitively coooooooooold! We did happen to go on a ridiculously cold day, but the wind that hit the top of the mountain must make even mild days chilly. We made the mistake of trying some of the runs on the North side of the mountain and had to endure a wind blasted ride up the hill on an exposed chair lift. But that's not all. I haven't mentioned the fog yet. At one point, one side of the hill was completely coverd in a dense fog that reduced visibility to perhaps five feet. We avoided those runs altogether, but it was mesmerizing to watch skiers disappear into the sunlit fog one after the other.
The scenery. . . I have been to BC, so I can't say that these were most majestic views I had every beheld, but they were breathtaking nonetheless. Obvious beauty was found in the hills themselves. Once you reach the top, you have a panoramic view of alpine hills spread a far as the eye can see. A less obvious source of beauty was the snow encrusted trees lining the slopes. The hill is riddled with snow-making machines. Much of the snow misses it's mark, coating the evergreens with a thick layer of white. Certain chairlifts swept us passed stands of heavy white pines that looked like they had been transplanted from a winter faery tale.
Despite the initial intimidation, Aidan and I held our own fairly well. Mind you, we weren't taking many risks. We did not stray from the intermediate runs at all. The few encounters we did have with a black diamond portion of trail left us on our behinds. I have no idea how people tackle powder moguls, but it is not a skill I have yet aquired. I was very impressed by my husband's skiing abilities. I trailed behind him for the most part and watched him execute tight, perfectly parallel turns. Following along, I imitated him, and actually fine-tuned my technique just by observation. I had eight fifteen minute self-instructed ski lessons, and reached the bottom a better skiier each time.
We set out for a dose of exhilaration, and found it. Now we are back to the grind with sick kids and work to do. But these things are our life. The mountains and small thrills in between are just a bonus.
Friday, January 19, 2007
How do two people celebrate five years of marriage? A funny concept, really, since every day marks new reasons to rejoice. The occasion, however, does offer us an excuse to do something we rarely can afford to do. Dinner out? No. Night at a hotel? No. We are going to launch ourselves down the biggest ski hill around: Tremblant. Neither of us have spent much time skiing, but we are passably able. One of my goals this winter is to learn how to get down a bunny hill on a snowboard. I have a narrow window of opportunity before another baby comes along. That will have to happen closer to home though. Tremblant is intimidating to begin with, let alone hurtling down it with both feet strapped to a board.
So, here's to five years. Think of us. Pray we arrive home exhilarated and un-concussed.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
This creature is responsible for three consecutive nights of near complete sleep depravation. I have calcualted an average of 3 to 4 hours a night. And counting . . . Yes, he looks harmless, but really, he is trying hasten our expiration.
Gabriel is 11 months old. A teeny tiny little person. But he is already so evidently a fallen little being. Two days ago, I had my first startling taste of his capacity to sin. Baby-barnacle, I have recently dubbed him, was inhibiting my progress on lunch preparations. When I put him down on the kitchen floor, he proceeded to clench his little fists, jut out his chest, and roar in my general direction. I stopped to look his way, and he looked me in the eye, roaring again with so much force it made him tremble.
And that's not all. Once I finally retrieved him, he grabbed a fist full of my hair and yanked, emitting a growl, as if to say; "So there."
This fills me with dread. What will he become? Just a reminder to you all, our little bitty sinners need praying for. Oh, and their parents need praying for too, because the good and righteous path becomes far more difficult to navigate in a fog.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I do realize that this post follows on the heels of another, which reflected upon the importance of things. But here's the thing. We just purchased a new camera, and it will certainly make things more interesting around here. My first photo: In the dark. No flash. No tripod. Beautiful. My favourite things are those that shine out of the darkness: Flickering flame & moonlit faces. These things were completely impossible to capture with the camera we had been using. Now, they stand a chance of being trapped on my lense.
Truth be told, I feel there was a wee bit of self indulgence involved. But I also feel an enormous desire to run out and capture our world in this lense, and see it reflect itself back at me so that I can learn from it.
We are thankful for what we have. And what we have will not be wasted.
Monday, January 08, 2007
A man made his way across a lonely landscape. His feet were bare and caked with dust. His clothes were worn and tattered. In his arms he carried the only three items he could call his own: A bowl made of clay, a silver spoon and a rusty hunting knife. He came upon a creaky bridge, and as he crossed it, the silver spoon slipped from his grasp and was lost in the whirling water below. "Oh, my knife! Gone forever!" He continued on, holding his remaining possessions closer than before. He passed into a deep forest. It wasn't long before a monkey swooped down out of a tree and snatched his silver spoon from his hands. As the monkey disappeared in the treetops the man cried, "Oh, my spoon, lost to me also!" The bowl, he clung to with all his might, folding it into his garments so that it stayed close to his skin. However, he came to a broken wall, over which he had to climb. As he picked his way carefully across the boulders, his clay bowl slipped from his grasp and shattered on the stone. The man paused. No move he made. And then, with his head thrown back and his arms raised to the sky he hollered, "Free!." And he carried on, with a bounce in his step and his arms swinging.
I don't remember where I heard it before, or even the details of how it was told, but the essence of this parable stuck with me. The weight and responsibility of things can be so tiring. On occasion, the life of a pilgrim has appealed to me. Hold on to the ones you love, and go. . . leave everything else behind. I have never worked out the how or where of this scenario. But the idea is still exhilarating. No ties to anything but one another.
The Acts church did it. They sold everything they had and gave it to the ministry, and to support one another. In today's reality, however, love would, likely, only get you so far in this climate, and then you would either have to become dependant on social assistance, or freeze to death in the snow. What's the balance? How do we become people freed of our proverbial clay bowls?
Aidan and I spent the Lord's day with a family who is about to do just that. They, and their six boys are heading off to Africa to train up local men to become pastors. In their wake, they will leave behind everything. And I mean everything. We were taken on a tour of their empty house, and offered the last of their furniture and appliances. The boys will be allowed to fill one small suitcase apiece. No bikes, no skates, no stuffed bears.
This same family followed us to our building site later in the day, and toured our home-to-be. They loved it. Offering it high praise, and hinting that this would be the place they come on furlough. Surely the awkwardness this situation presented is evident to you. While this couple was in the midst of purging themselves of all of their wordly posessions, Aidan and I were equally as busy compiling our own.
Mercifully, it wasn't long before we were offered this little gem; "We have been greatly blessed by wealthy friends who's wealth is their ministry. Everything they own is given in hospitality and fellowship." You have much? Then give much. The more I meditate on this the more I understand. God has given us all clay bowls. Those of us who cling to our bowl until our knuckles turn white will never find peace. But those of us who hold on lightly, treating it as a thing to be passed around, will be just as the man who's own bowl slipped out of his fingers to the ground: Free.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Saint Nick's gift exchange, spent with Aidan's extended family. This involves lots of poetry, the presence of a "real" Saint Nick, (the orator of said poetry), and the result is much word garbling and laughter.
The Christmas Play: Always perfect in it's imperfection. This year, Elijah was a sheep who wanted to be lost. He tore away from the flock to get to Daddy at the far end of the sanctuary, and despite the head shepherd's best efforts, remained lost. A different end to the parable we all know.
Christmas Eve with the Van Dyk's: Rare visits with Aunt Stasia and Uncle Evan, who always come bearing great loot for the kids. Delicious Christmas bread: sticky and sweet and always polished off. An array of gourmet cheeses and tapenades. Orange peel tricks and sparking flames. Games, along with a healthy dose of family competition. (See Einstein Riddle below) And carol singing around the piano. The enjoyment of which I seem to forget from year to year, but rediscover after the first piano chord.
ALBERT EINSTEIN'S RIDDLE
ARE YOU IN THE TOP 2% OF INTELLIGENT PEOPLE IN THE WORLD? SOLVE THE RIDDLE AND FIND OUT.
There are no tricks, just pure logic, so good luck and don't give up.
1. In a street there are five houses, painted five different colours.
2. In each house lives a person of different nationality
3. These five homeowners each drink a different kind of beverage, smoke different brand of cigar and keep a different pet.
THE QUESTION: WHO OWNS THE FISH?
1. The Brit lives in a red house.
2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
3. The Dane drinks tea.
4. The Green house is next to, and on the left of the White house.
5. The owner of the Green house drinks coffee.
6. The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds.
7. The owner of the Yellow house smokes Dunhill.
8. The man living in the centre house drinks milk.
9. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
10. The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.
11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
12. The man who smokes Blue Master drinks beer.
13. The German smokes Prince.
14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
15. The man who smokes Blends has a neighbour who drinks water.
ALBERT EINSTEIN WROTE THIS RIDDLE EARLY DURING THE 19th CENTURY. HE SAID THAT 98% OF THE WORLD POPULATION WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO SOLVE IT.
(Guess who solved it? My super smart husband did! It didn't take him long, either.)
Be on the lookout for this logo. Aidan and Colin will make a famous beer brew one of these days and it will appear in glasses just like this, maybe in their own pub! Colin made these particular glasses for us.
Christmas Night & Day: Sqeezing everyone into the Millar household for the night. This means that 11 people are divided into three bedrooms. This year the men all piled into the master bedroom at the front of the house, and accordingly slept peacefully the whole night through. The rest of us . . . attended to a crying baby and a coughing girl from 3:00 a.m until dawn. Who cares. It's just one night.
The day always begins early in our family. This year, due to sleep deprivation, we actually made it to 7:00 a.m. before getting up. We all file downstairs to bulging stockings and hot coffee. The bigger gifts are opened from youngest to oldest. A very practical arrangement, since Elijah's enthusiasm could NOT be bridled. And then comes the BIG breakfast. The menu most years is fried eggs and thick pieces of smoked ham. But I had to throw homemade waffles and whipped cream into the mix this year.
Had there actually been SNOW this year, we would have spent the day sledding or romping in the snow, but this year there was no such option. Instead, I napped for three hours, while my father upended our 30 pound turkey's boiling juices onto his foot and recieved a very bad burn. Please read his version of this tale here.
The traditional turkey meal is consumed and much appreciated. However, I have big plans for garlic and rosemary chicken one of these years. (Recipe courtesy of Jared.) And then we play games until we can fit dessert into our bellies. This year, orange cheesecake topped with blueberries, and pecan torte was available, but we were all so tired we went home before we got to it.
Boxing Day: Games day. One of Aidan's cousins began a Boxing Day tradition of filling the day with games rather than shopping. She recently stopped hosting the event, but we like the idea. So we will likely continue it in the country with snow sport, or games around the wood stove. Yeah! This year Aidan's parents treated us all to a day at the Museum of Civilization and an Omnimax movie.
New Years Eve & Day: I have enjoyed this celebration so much these past few years. One of our friends and her family would open up their country home to twenty of us or so. We would all bring a mix of food and hang out all night long. Lots of games and laughter. Often, in whiter years, the males would race across the fields on a ski-doo. And the women would talk and talk and talk. We have never established a midnight protocal. One year we sang psalms right through. Another, we stopped to pray. Another, we spoke allowed our hopes and prayers for the year. After midnight, (and beyond for some), we would spread out throughout the house and get some sleep. Bodies everywhere!
I think what has warmed my heart most about these years has been the inclusion of our children. Twenty childless youths, and our little ones, whether they cry the night away or not, have been welcomed and cuddled and loved at every turn. Makes parenting easy to know that we, and our children, are loved that much.
This year, as is often the case, the tradition had to be passed on. We will now be the hosts. With much preparation, eight of us gathered at my sister's after evening worship to enjoy a three-part fodue. Smoky bacon cheese, pork and peanut satay, and velvety chocolat, to name a few. And while we all just vegged out in our pygamas, the intimacy of the group made it the happiest place in the world to be. The roads were icy, so we all bunked down all over the house around 2:30. In the morning, we had a crepe and whipped cream breakfast, using up the extra chocolate sauce and fruit.
The holidays are over. And I know they have been a blessing when I tingle with anticipation for them to begin once more next year. Lord willing, we will have a cosy country home to offer to all the people we love next year. New traditions will be established, all firmly anchored in love and fellowship.