Friday, May 25, 2007

Two months notice

We officially gave notice to the landlady that we will be leaving here in two months time. Wow. By August 1st, we will either be snug in our beds in our newly finished country home. Or, we will be camping out in the backyard of our not-so finished country home. Tick, tock, tick, tock. . .

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ribs, fireworks and other good things

A stunningly beautiful day. It all started with ribs. I posted the best rib recipe in the world on another site, and made a tongue-and-cheek offer of Aidan's services as a barbequer to anyone who wanted to provide the meat. Well, Niki took me up and that, and we found ourselves travelling out to the country this past weekend to cook up some ribs. We have always felt so at home at the Mains' house, and yesterday was no exception. Because I haven't the words to describe the day well enough in all it's colours and textures, I will share it with you in pictures:Food. Heaping piles of jumbo shrimp. Guacamole and brie. The ribs. . . ten pounds of them, rubbed in a spicy mixture, coated in a thick, tangy homemade barbeque sauce and smoked in fresh applewood chips. Amazing. Not one of us managed to look graceful while eating. It is simply not possible. Ice cream cake and a Belgian Chocolate Torte for dessert. Oh so good.Play. The kids were on the go non-stop. Maybe that is what I love most about being in that place. There is always an attentive person on hand, not just willing to play with the kids, but eager to. It is just another place that I feel my family is loved as a whole. First there was crockett. A bit of dog wrestling with Jack. Bocce ball. Caelah became a farm girl, trailing after Rob to the pens, and making herself familiar with all the animals. She fed Violet a bottle. Held a chick. Gathered eleven eggs and fed the pigs their slop. That's my girl. We all took turns on the ATV. The kids hated the noise, but Cory and John patiently won them over until they were rumbling across the field on the big red machine, and loving it.Fireworks. Around 9:00 sparklers were passed around. I don't remember the last time I got to play with a sparkler. The smell hit me powerfully. Memories flooded back from old neighbourhood festivities. When the fireworks were lit it became a giggle session as some of them hissed, sputterd and died. But, being a city girl, I was thrilled with the experience of doing this all at home. A hands-on fireworks display. Very cool. We drove home with good food in our bellies, fresh air in our lungs, and sparkles in our eyes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Female Companionship

I woke this morning with a sob caught in my throat and my body aching with sorrow. A single dream managed to break my heart. It was not one about pain, or death or fear. It was about rejection. In my dream, someone I hold in high esteem dismissed me. "I think we have heard enough from you. You have nothing of value to say. Leave our family be." For me dreams have always had too much power. They change me. And when they strike my heart, as this one did, I have no choice but to bring it to God and see what He would have me see. One of my greatest insecurities was laid bare last night while I slept, and I woke determined to break myself free of it's power over me.

I have been raised in love. I have always had family and friends who care deeply about me. And yet, a single ailing relationship, or unloving encounter, can make me feel alone and small. Why? Why do I draw upon the love and acceptance of others as a lifesource? Why does rejection feel like a blood wound, draining away my confidence and joy?

I know I am not alone. There are women in my life, even now, who are hurting so deeply because of a suffering female relationship. They have wrapped up so much of themselves in it that when it is unsettled their joy is taken from them. Why is she ignoring me? Am I an unworthy freind? Am I not godly enough for her?

Women have always been the most deadly critics of other women. They know how to wound with precision. They know how to judge. They know how to look another woman over from head to toe, inside and out, and then make a diagnosis of all the ills they have found. Why do we do that? So that we don't have to look at ourselves. Because we are jealous creatures. Because we have not learned how to love. Most importantly, because we have not accepted that God is our judge, and Christ, our saviour is the anchor of our identity.

Hagar. I think of Hagar. Fleeing into the wilderness out of, both her own pride, but also the cruelty of Sarah. She had nowhere to go but away from there. But she was not left alone to wander. She was called back, and sent home again. "You are the God who sees me . . ." God did, seemingly, bring Hagar comfort that day despite the pronouncement of some very harsh truths. But Hagar did not respond with bitterness to any of the unhappy things she had been told. Instead she said; "You see me." Was this her comfort? That, though on earth she was nothing but a servant and pawn without any respect or love for her person, to God she was known truly?

. . . but he is here, close by my side, and not by me only, but in me; within this heart; where these lungs beat; or where my blood gushes through my veins; or where this pulse is beating, like a muffled drum, my march to death; God is there: within this mouth; in this tongue; in these eyes; in each of you God dwells; he is within you, and around you; he is beside you, and behind, and before. Is not much knowledge too wonderful you? Is it not high, and you cannot attain unto it? I say, how can you resist the doctrine, which comes upon you like a flash or lightning, that if God be everywhere he must see everything, and that therefore it is a truth, "Thou God seest me."
We have a God who, being the Knower of Truth--and Truth itself, reduces the judgments of Men to mere whisps of smoke, without form or substance.
"A man skilled in the human heart might interpret my deeds and translate their motives, but he could not read my heart as God can read it. None can tell another as God can tell us all: we do not know ourselves as God knows us: with all your self knowledge, with all you have been told by others, God knows you more fully than you know yourself: no eye can see you as God sees you—"

I have been chosen out of eternity as a daughter. I have been loved from the dawn of everything. How can I let the tide of another woman's affections for me sway my own peace and joy, when the love of my God is unwavering and eternal? A call to you hurting ladies; find your joy in Christ, not other women. We are blessed with female companionship, certainly, but we will fail one another. We will say hurtful things, and be thoughtless. We will make judgments and be neglectful. We will not love and cherish one another as we should. But we will be loved and cherished nevertheless. By another.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Quilts and globes and loads of love

Globes. I wanted a globe. Even now, at the age of 25, I know a frighteningly small amount about the world. A few years ago, on a dare, I memorized the names and whereabouts of the countries and capitals of Europe in about 45 minutes. But, of course, it didn't really stick. In response to my own inadequacies, I am determined to teach my children how God has pieced together the nations across the expanse of the waters. For Mother's Day, Aidan gave me a beautiful metal-toned globe so that I can give my children the world.
Waffles. In was a groggy morning, after enduring a double-overtime hockey game and a cranky baby. But Aidan was determined to have a breakfast and coffee ready for me before I came down the stairs. I don't normally eat much breakfast, despite Aidan's constant urgings, but twice a year I tell him to go wild. He loves making me breakfast, probably because it is the one meal he has time to offer me. So I allow him to indulge me on days like these with crepes and waffles, and though I can rarely fit much in, I savour every bite.

Quilts. On Saturday night Caelah's Aunty Karin told her she had a surprise for her. It was a beautiful quilt, all in oranges and deep pinks. It has taken Karin months and months of work to complete it. And I know it was a gift to me as much as it was to Caelah. A forever gift that will, perhaps, swaddle Caelah's own baby someday. And so I received an extra Mother's Day gift that was made even more precious when, in Sunday's sermon, our pastor expanded our view of motherhood. He urged us to mother all the children in our lives, whether they came from our womb or not. To be attentive to them, and guide them in the way they should go. This quilt is one representation of the love that my children are encircled with. My motherly burden is made light when I am supported and sustained by the co-mothering and co-fathering of so many beloved friends.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wild Kittens

We took Caelah to her very first soccer practice. I have to say, it was a pure entertainment. You have all heard about kids in the outfield at a t-ball game picking wild flowers and picking their noses. Well, in a tots soccer game, there is no time for picking anything. It's all: RUN! The general effect is that of a buzzing cloud of tiny people trailing the ball around en masse, like a human comet. This is true even if the ball strays far, far, off course. If one kid goes, they all go. At one point, the comet of wee folk made it all the way into the next game across the field before they were reigned in. They also, on a few occasions veered towards the bystanders, weaving between picnic blankets, and terrorizing infants. One poor boy ran into a lawn chair and winded himself.

A really fantastic twist developed when the comet of wee folk came across a second ball along the way. The group instantly split in two, creating two buzzing clouds, aimlessly kicking away. I say aimlessly because it is as though the nets do not exist. Even if the kiddos could see past one another to locate the whereabouts of the nets, they have not yet developed the coordination to steer the ball towards them. As for the goals that did miraculously occur, they were scored in whichever net presented itself first. Team Bubblegum frequently scored on team Bubblegum's poor goalie. And team Wild Kittens, less frequently, scored on team Wild Kitten's, often absentee, goalie.

Why, oh why, does there always have to be a Bad Kid? Ours took the form of a ridiculously cute kid in a red ball cap. Tiny and dark, but ruthless. He obviously viewed every child on the field as an obstacle, deserving of a good shove. Boy, girl, smaller than him, bigger than him. All shove-able. Caelah was targeted more than a few times, but though my red hot momma-bear defenses went up, I had to admit the kid had guts!

Hats off to the coaches. Derrick and Tori. I think all our hearts went out to them. First, there was the name game. The kids passed a soccer ball in a circle, saying their name and favourite colour, as the receieved it. More than a few shy girls, Caelah included, broke down and ran crying to their moms. Then there was the "passing" drill. This one was doomed before it began. Derrick spent 15 minutes trying to partner the kids and space them apart. But every time he got one pair organized, the next would have strayed apart and wondered off. Even once he did get them aligned, the balls most certainly did not go back and forth, but side to side, and all over the place. After the ordeal was over I saw Derrick mouth to Tori; "That did NOT work..."

Allow me a moment to bask in parental pride. Caelah was fantastic. First of all, she looked really cute. She happened to have these sneakers at home that look like adidas, but with pink stripes, so she looked the part. Second, despite the name game fiasco, she got completely involved in everything. She listened to Derrick patiently, and completed his instructions perfectly. And she proved to be a super runner. During a running drill around the field, she was right on Derrick's heels while most of the other kids got tired and stopped after one lap. When she did get the ball during the game, she had control. She stopped, and tried to direct it back the right way. She really knows how to kick thanks to her daddy.

I for one am looking forward to the stories that will no doubt emerge from a summer's worth of soccer for wee folk.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Images of Home: My Aunt's House {Souvenir Street}

Memories and perceptions in one's youth are so formative and enduring. The cherry cake the neighbours served at a party, which later made me quite ill, has nurtured in me a dislike of the little red fruit to this day. The rock music my parents played around the house in my earliest years still hits my ear with fond familiarity, despite having long developed my own musical tastes. And the places I visited throughout my childhood are now blanketed in an impression, formed from fragmented memories, images, smells and sounds. My aunt's house, a place visited in sporatic, whirlwind stays, was blanketed in . . . magic.

To my little girl eyes, it was a house surrounded by both wonder and mystery. An old gray stone victorian in Montreal's downtown made it exciting regardless of it's inside. Yet it was the inside, with it's trove of treasures that made me so eager to be a part of mom's journeys there. I anticipated visits with both excitement, and anxiety. Excitement because my aunt's was a study in clustered collections and colourful curiosities. Nothing was off limits. We were permitted to explore, and touch. Shelves lined with little bobbles. Petrushka dolls waiting to be opened. An old gumball machine, that, though brimming with coloured balls when we were kids, became mysteriously empty once we hit teenagehood. Large hanging plants, top lit by beautiful skilights. Skittery cats, creeping out from under beds and behind desk chairs. Mexican morraca's and tambourines. A basketball net by the entry. High, molded ceilings which made me feel so small. Walls covered in precious scraps; old pictures, cherished notes and cards, news articles. And books. Soooooo many books. And not just boring old books with no pictures, but coffee table books made to catch the eye with deliciously vivid photography. This is a place where there is room for everything, and all things are given room.

Any anxiety I felt over impending visits came from an awareness that her's was an adult house. One were little people rarely trespassed, thus making it feel a little alien to me and my siblings. It held things which, though benign to adults with their muted imaginations, became horrifying after a bit of childish meditation under the cover of darkness. I remember a poster of a cherub who's notched arrow was pointed out at the room. When our beds were made up on the floor that night, I didn't want to take my eyes off that arrow lest it be loosed on us. A wrought iron mask that had been implanted in a wicker vase full of pennies was removed after I had nightmares over it, and refused to even pass it by. An adult would see it for what it was; molded metal, but to a child it was a demon, waiting to pounce on penny-thieves. And let me impress upon you the necessity of retrieving said pennies, as they were much needed in the gumball machine upstairs.

Now, as an adult in an adult house everything has become familiar, rather than enticingly exoctic. I realize now that much of what I see in my aunt's home has been collected in love over many years. I once took it all for granted, but I know now that it was gathered bit by precious bit. Nothing truly valuable in and of itself, but each item holding a memory, and a story. And it is this that has affected me. I have come to see that houses with character are the ones I enter and never want to leave because it feels like they have introduced themselves to me and want me to stay. Houses filled with expensive items, isolated and untouchable leave no impression at all. Or if they do, it is this: come in if you must, but don't touch, and don't stay long. If we have to live in houses on this earth, shouldn't they be welcoming? Welcome . . .