Friday, February 29, 2008

Thursday. Usually the day before Friday, but sometimes a day you'll never forget

The next time someone calls you hard-headed, take it as a compliment.

February 28, 2008. 4:00 pm. My mother phoned to tell me that she had totalled their van by flipping it into the ditch near St Agathe. She told the tale of hanging upside down in the van, a nice trucker guy stopping to help them out and let them sit in his warm truck, and their police ride back home. She said they were absolutely fine.

I was still on the phone when I saw Arianna's friend Julia come flying up the back step. She flew into the house and said this:

Arianna has been hit by a car.

Really. she really said that. And that really happened. Really. (I'm repeating myself for my own sake, as I'm in a surreal zone)

Julia and I raced through the snow, over the snow mound at the edge of the church parking lot, and towards the cars and people situated on main street. I was trying to run faster than my feet, and I fell flat out on the snow. I was annoyed that it would take time away from me getting to my girl. Arianna was sitting on the street, lucid, with blankets piled on her. She was surrounded by calm, helpful people who encouraged her to stay still, kept asking her questions, and doing what they could to be helpful. 911 had been phoned, and the first responders were there shortly. They put Arianna in a neck brace, and slid her onto a board. She was saying that her back and head hurt, but she was clearly not in agony.

I met the man who had hit her, and I felt as sorry for him as I did my little girl. He was shaken, and apologetic, and I gave him a hug which may have made him feel worse, I'm not sure. That's when I saw his windshield, which was shattered, in a pattern that looked like the impact of a head, with splinter marks stretching out from it. I had to look back at my daughter. How could she be conscious?! How could there be no blood?!

We had a ride in the ambulance to St Pierre hospital. On the way, their radio was busy with incoming calls, most containing the words MVA. The roads were really, really bad. It was clear that mom and dad and Arianna were not the only ones making it to the emergency room.

At the hospital, we had a series of X-rays which all came back absolutely fine. I was anxious for the attendants to roll her over so I could get a look at the bruises on her back.

Her back was as beautiful as the day she was born. Not a scratch, a bruise, NOTHING. After the doc took a look at the pictures and gave her the okay, we were able to take off the neck brace and help her sit up, then stand up, then walk. Seriously. There was my absolutely beautiful daughter, standing tall and pretty and smart and strong as ever. Unbelievable.

We learned that most of the highways in the area had been closed by the RCMP. Good thing we always have uncle Mel. Brian, and mel, and Kathy came up in that wonderful truck of his, with interior heating and four wheels and everything and drove us home through the storm.

My little girl has a really sore lower back. And a tiny scratch on her pinkie. And did I mention that they were eating ketchup chips on their way to the church? In addition to shattering the guy's windshield, she also sprinkled it with ketchup chips. How thoughtful of her.

I'll probably write about this another 49 times. Right now I'm trying to write down the facts because living in a small town with wonderful, genuine, helpful people means that there are probably a lot of people who actually saw the accident. They will be wondering what actually happened, and what the fall-out is. Right now, we've got a sore back to deal with. although the x-rays came back normal, we may have chiropractic in our future.

One more thing. Tell your kids that when they are waiting to cross the street, and someone waves them across.... THAT DOES NOT GUARANTEE THAT IT IS SAFE TO CROSS. And that if you have a hard head.... that's not such a bad thing.

(the picture of the windshield is not the actual windshield. It's a picture that I took off the internet)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Excuse me... but... That's a Kitchen You're Carrying on Your Shoulder...

This messenger bag brought to you by a 1976 wall tea towel; a green and teale coloured table cloth, and a kitchen apron.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On Hair and Hearts

I don't get my hair cut every six weeks.
Not even every six months. I have a bit of a bizarre relationship to my hair- I don't like to shower, blow dry, product, or fuss. I can't be bothered. Still, I want the option, and I want it done right. I would rather hack into it myself than trust it to someone who is going to get it all wrong, and then watch me suffer while my hair grows a quarter of a millimeter every solar eclipse.

But I'm sort of opinionated and passionate about hair. When I was a teenager, I wanted to go into cosmetology at the high school, but my mother told me in no-nonsense low german that there were better things to do with one's lifetime. (she hasn't had a hair cut since 1954, I think. I should have probably checked the source of the advice before I caved to it...)

In my lifetime, at a rate of one hair cut every half year or so.... I've met three outstanding hair persons. One was back-in-the-day when I could be selfish and hip and get my hair cut at Edward Carriere with the fancy uptown people with the stellar hair trends and runway type clothing. We would listen to Leonard Cohen moan in the background while envisioning the whisper thin stylists snorting cocaine in the ladies room. My stylist had a plain name like "Helen" or "Susan", and I always thought about the contrast between her name, which was reminiscient of girdled Mennonites in Silver fields, and the cutting edge modern world in which Sue-Helen worked in. And it fit. Sue-Helen certainly didn't swish about in a girdle and thick brown nylons, but she had a sensible mind. She didn't really resonate with the fickle people around her whose main concern was whether they were thin enough, trendy enough, and where the hippest party was going to be that night. And although she didn't point that out to me, it was obvious because I could see her heart through her eyes, and in her choice in conversation.

After we moved to Brandon, I suffered from bad-ass-haircut-itis for the first few years or so. (ah, yes.... such lean years....) Then I met Suzanne. Suzanne is one of those people who gives you the impression that she has been staring longingly out the front window of her shop, hungering and thirsting for your bi-annual appearance. I would go in expecting a hug, a scalp massage, a kick-ass haircut, and an intense therapy session- All swathed and padded in loving compassion and empathy. We talked about women and their bodies, loving God, growing up Mennonite, our family histories, and life in and out of the church. It was Suzanne who taught me most clearly about living life with passion. About loving people outside of the constraints and guidelines of the organized church, utterly between your heart and the God you love. Boy, that was refreshing.

Then we moved again. And I resorted to cutting my own hair again. Ugly, yes. Affordable, yes. I prefer to laugh at my own attempts to bastardize my hair than to be annoyed at someone I paid hard earned dollars to do it for me. But in September of '07, I stuck my neck and scalp out again and entrusted them to a fella named Kyle. He was here for a short time, between cutting famous heads in Vancouvar and jetting off to Australia to learn stuff at Hillsongs. And Kyle was brilliant. He was incredibly gifted with the scissors, he had a humble attitude, and he had such a beautiful heart. I was sitting in the presence of something rare, and I knew it. I didn't get enough time listening to his heart to be able to categorize it. I only know that here was a person who had asked big questions and lived some pretty tough confusions in his short life, and yet he had a hunger and a wisdom and a peace that was waaaay beyond his years. My haircut experience with him was nothing short of inspirational.

So, here I am six months later. The hair has grown about a tenth of a millimeter now, but the haircut I got was so well done that it continues to work as it grows out.

The bigger truth is that everyone has influence. And some of the professions have more influence than one might think.

Do you think it's possible that just this once, my mother might have been wrong?!!
Well, I'm off to Scientific Marvel School of Aesthetics now. Right after I get my degree in design so that I can generate income by making something out of nothing. Then I'm going to finish my University degree so that I can stop calling myself a loser. Then I'll publish a book and go off on a book signing tour.

Nah.... Maybe I'll just lock myself in the bathroom with a pair of sewing scissors, and talk philosophy to myself in the mirror.

I best take care not to use the pinking shears.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

As time went on, a sure but steady realization settled upon her.
The practicalities of purchasing cast-off furniture had further reaching sensibilities than she had ever quite anticipated. When one tired of parking oneself upon the settee, one can simply slice it into more manageable bits and sling it over one's shoulder.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday makes the Weekend Feel like a Postcard From the Past

The boys were cookie dough depleted.
This calls for an intervention.
Oh, Yay!
The days are getting longer. We no longer feel like going to bed at 3:30pm and getting up in July.
Micah learned to fry his own eggs, and is contemplating the life of a chef in his father's posh eating establishment. Sam has been talking a great deal about swimming pools, beaches, and bonfires. He's mad at the dog for chewing the head off his little wooden turtle from Mexico. (sorry, auntie Kathy). Chap stick makes a nice light snack as well.
The girls have shopping on their minds, and me? Just happy to have a Saturday and a Sunday to caress my best, old friends.
Vintage fabrics.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Father's Love

Pretty freaking important.
Reminds me of a certain beautiful child I know who is missing some massively important neural connections because of his mother's decision to drink like a fish while she was growing him. There's just stuff missing. Stuff that can't be replaced. The compromised result is pretty devastating, like a row of carrots that got planted with the corn and never got the sun or moisture that they needed to get orange and thick and juicey. It's insanely unjust on so many levels.

Follow the analogy. The pregnant drunk made a choice to drink. The emotionally absent father makes a choice to shut down. Of course, it's all layered in far reaching complications. The poor choices were probably fueled by their own impoverished history of crummy parenting, and they themselves are the walking wounded, not recognizing that the power of changing history rests with them.

But I don't feel like sticking up for the generation one back right now. I want to be mad about the people right now who are stunted because of what they didn't get. I want free corrective surgery for the wounded. And I want to walk right up to dead beat dads and ask them- Was it worth it? Was it easier to disengage? Is it rewarding to avoid eye contact, or are you afraid that I can see directly into your soul?

It bugs me that dads are just people who got the testosterone ration, turn the lights out and release some of that pent-up repression and then land up as surprised fathers nine months later. I wish you`d have to have some sort of a clue of what you were getting into. What is required. What is the minimum amount of time, energy, teaching, and unconditional love it takes to raise a decently balanced kid. I wish these guys would have had an epiphany back in their twenties or thirties. I don`t think it`s ever too late to start being an engaged dad. Clearly a bunch of stages are erevocably lost, but I think most people`s hearts are always thirsting for that daddy recognition. I bet a bunch of those neural connections could grow themselves later on in life if a daddy would wake up and smell the coffee.

There is a stupid amount of unnecessary wounded in this life. The little people without a decent gestational chance have only got that much to go on. I am sure there is no medical intervention that will ever change how they developed in those crucial nine months.

And the rest of us? What are we doing to not repeat history? Granted, we`ve all got our own scars to work around, and we`ll all mess up our kids and relationships in one way or another.

Just, for crying out loud- can we get real? Can we face up to our humanness, maybe choke out a sorry now and again, maybe get the nerve to look inside and recognize the grip that fear has had on us, and how staring it in the face might weaken it a whole bunch?

Sometimes the cheap Redi-Fill that people use to patch up their crippled selves really gets on my nerves. It`s hard and painful work to face up to your crap, but so is passing your crap on to the next generation.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Marriage Class

Brian and I joined a seven week marriage enrichment class, which we are over halfway through tonight. I figured that all we needed was a bit of a tune-up- Brian could just change a few of his filters and fuses, stop doing stuff that annoys me, start giving me more backrubs and unsolicited vacuum projects, and we'd likely graduate at the top of our class. They'd likely have us teach it immediately upon our completion, I figured. But as we slogged through the video teachings and handbooks, a slow, horrendous realization began to dawn upon me.

If I'd have known that they'd expect me to examine my inner motives and attitudes, I would have set them straight early on.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I may be a little overdramatic here, but there seems to be an observable pattern to aspects of my life thus far. I seem to have programmed in a default mode for when I "succeed" to a level beyond which intimidates me. Take the "get over it already and like your body" support group for example. I have talked about it for years now (ten?!). I've spoken to church people about it, been encouraged to pursue it, and met with an elder a few times. I found the materials on the internet complete with teaching packages. I've pretty much decided to go "community" and advertise outside of the bounds of church, but still I've not ordered the materials. My first excuse is money. The van cost us ridiculous sums of money in January, and I've been trying to minimize in some areas to compensate for that. But is it really about the money, or is it just more exciting to talk about doing this stuff, but really too frightening to stick one's neck out and begin?

Then there is the blogging/writing schtick. Within forty-eight hours this weekend, I had two distinctive and opposite conversations with people who have read my blog. The first encouraged me heartily to not compromise on the raw and the honest. That people resonate with what is expressed here, and it provides a voice for others who hadn't formed the thoughts into words and sentences. We talked about the risks of being misunderstood, and she shared her opinion that one should write to the audience that understands the intent,, and that nay-sayers should understand that reading the contents invokes the saying I used to have in my sidebar. "Know that if you read here; I am choosing to trust you. One cannot be trusted without consequences." Readers should understand that they are reading one person's perspective, and that this immediately makes it inconclusive, incomplete, and one-sided.

The conversation with the second party was that there is a distinct difference between a blog and a journal, and that a blog is not and should not be a personal journal. Openly processing raw and untidy thoughts and emotions is best reserved for notebooks and therapists.

I can see both viewpoints are valid. In processing, one must be mindful of respecting other people's privacy. In some cases, it's so near impossible, that it's just easier not to write about it at all. That frustrates me, because I believe that in the world of writing and reading, we all share common struggles. Some of the issues are less common, and when one discovers a blog that writes openly about something that you too deal with, it's a bonding, comforting, supportive place to go to. Staying quiet sometimes feels like pulling down the blinds and pretending that these pains do not exist.

Writing relatively uncensored has important things to consider as well. You've got to have the inner strength to cope when all hell breaks loose, and things get misunderstood. Maybe you've been too casual about an issue, or your words sound crass and careless to the hurting, or your humour totally offends a reader. The ideal reaction in my opinion is to listen, validate, and then learn from the fallout. Becoming defensive is rarely a grand plan, nor is it particularly effective. Not that I'm not prone to all that. Defensiveness, curling up into a fetal position and crying for a month, breaking small appliances, and smoking menthols. All not terribly effective solutions. Most attempted.

But, what, may I ask is the difference between a writer who blogs and a writer who publishes a book? Books are full of opinions, sarcasm, personal anecdotes, private struggles, references to others. How come that's "okay"? Or is it the same, and those authors have developed certain coping skills to help them deal with hate mail and fallout?

After the conflicting discussions in my own mind, and the recent conversations of the weekend, I heard myself speculate that I'd likely begin posting fewer and fewer things, and make them increasingly more shallow. Then people would drop off, I'd have failed again, and I could go back to being a comfortable wanna-be.

How annoying is that? I'm sick of being a wanna-be. I'm sick of feeling like I need permission to fully exist. I'm absolutely not willing to push my own agenda at the cost of relationships, leaving a trail of wounded in my wake. But there must be a line between what one feels compelled to do and be, and learning to live in peace with others.

Epiphany to share, anyone?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Weekends This Delicious Might Be Illegal In Some Countries

Oh, the decadence.

No,we didn't fly away to someplace hot and humid. The weather here was rotten. The children were not shipped off to stay with relatives for an indefinate period of time. The dishes did not clean themselves.

But the food that kicked off our weekend on Friday was especially delightful. Lobster and hot butter. Linguine with feta and sundried tomato; salad with carmalized almond slivers; spinach and ricotta pie; dilled carrots; nice wine. Pleasant company. All that- quite a gift.

The rest of the weekend, I had time to lose myself in my fabrics. Saturday a warmer front blew in from the south, and it was quite pleasant outdoors, so I was able to take a lovely walk down to the thrift shop. They were having a half off sale, and I scooped up a number of fabrics and the hugest cache of shell buckles ever. For practically free. These goodies are going to look pretty sweet on the bags of my imagination. So far, I've oggled them, rearranged their order on my coffee table/beat up chest, and then oggled them some more. Sometimes these delicacies get stared at quite a lot before I'm ready to send them off into the retail world, like a mommy watching her baby leave for kindergarten.

Last winter, my friend slipped me a luscious piece of fabric she'd found at the Steinbach thrift shop. I loved it so much that I could hardly stand to look at it, oggle it, or rearrange it. This weekend, I took the leap of faith and fitted those gorgeous swirls of "peace, happiness, love" into a terrific little messenger bag. I hope I have the courage to sell it. I may like it just a little too much. (well, ok, I made three......)

On Sunday at church, a little angel slipped me a baggie with the most mouthwatering buttons inside it. Wow. What a find. During the message I lined those buttons up in a row on my thigh and just gazed at them. Call it meditation if you will.

Loss of wages aside, ought we not to consider making every weekend three days long? After our first Sunday (being Sunday) we had our second Sunday (being Monday), and easily had time to share a meal with my folks as well. This is something that all too often stays on the list of the well intentioned.

So, the dryer toast of tomorrow's workday may stick in my throat just a little.
Then again, maybe the linger in the air of tantalizing leftovers will waft me down toward Friday again.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Again

Is it any wonder that a city as cold as Winnipeg is known for its quality and variety of restaurants? I don't know too many people who would rather strap on a pair of skates or skis and navigate the river skating path than to sit down to some hot comfort food on a bitterly cold night in February.

We're too content to stay inside to even consider making a trip to Winnipeg to check out their marvelous restaurants. Instead, we've worked out a bit of a pattern for ourselves, right here at home. Brian has become utterly obsessed with the Moosewood cookbooks, and most fridays he rushes home to put together the chosen recipes of the weekend. Last friday it was spinach and ricotta pie; Italian cheesecake; and spaghetti squash smothered in cheese and other delicious morsels. (I pretty much stay out of it, aside from picking up the necessary ingredients on my weekly trip to the city.) The kids aren't much for trying new, vegetarian fare, but they are rarely disappointed in fridays, as Brian makes it a habit to stop at the store on the way home to load up on ketchup chips and coke. (shut up). While I try to dredge up some enthusiasm for my last hour or so of work, and Brian's dishes begin to permeate the air; we wait for our friends to arrive. People pile in with dishes for us to try, balanced with the wine of their choice.

Thus, we usher in the weekend.

We put samples of numerous new recipes onto our plates, and through mmmmmmm's and ahhhh's, and "that's-a-keeper"s, we begin to engage in conversation. My friend Cheri calls it "small group" which is a not-so-new church trend that people are highly encouraged to participate in. In its ideal form, it is an oppurtunity for exploring spirituality in a safe place, a venue for asking the hard questions, and a place to develop relationships beyond the superficial. We've got all of that going on.

Sometimes the conversations stretch well past the point of the kids getting tucked into bed, and long enough for the dessert to have begun to digest. Sometimes long enough for that spinach pie to look appealing again, or for heads to begin dropping onto chests. (well, for me anyway.)

It's an awesome way to start the weekend. Even if Saturday is painfully dull and dominated by dustballs and static-haired offspring, it's a good feeling to remember that Friday was a highlight, and not a horizontal exercise in channel surfing.

Tonight, we get to pretend we've travelled off to the East coast. Our friends are hosting, and cooking lobster. Brian's moosewood cookbook has been studied, the drool wiped off, the ingredients purchased. There's still a bottle of red wine from last Friday. We're both fighting the flu, and the temperature refuses to budge much higher than minus thirty (for about 800 consecutive days now).

But there's a lot of good to focus on instead.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

It started out innocently enough.
Little did he know that he was rapidly becoming an irresistable chic magnet.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Almost Mexico

I've been away for the past couple of days- mostly in the jahnt zeed area of Manitoba. (That's german for "the other side of the Red River" for those Anglisch amongst you). And I never had to leave the house.

"I Am Hutterite" by Mary Ann Kirkby transported me to the beautiful Manitoba prairies and into a lifestyle that has always held a certain intrigue for me. Her writing is easily read, and tears fell unbidden as I read about her lifetime of joys, losses, hopes, and the loneliness of life off the colony. I thought about human nature being ubiquitous, regardless of culture. I thought about the endurance of the human spirit. And I thought about all the many immigrants we have right under our noses that we probably snub and discount without a second thought. It's easier to feel regret when the account is told by someone with such mastery of our familiar English language, and an understanding of our more mainstream culture. But that doesn't discount the reality that people know when they are perceived as second class citizens, and that naturally they feel the sting and inferiority of rejection. Something to be mindful of in my interactions with people who cross my path.

"Almost Eden" by Anita Horrocks settled me into life of a younger, smaller Winkler. I remember as a child hearing whispers about Eden Mental Health Centers; about shock treatments, and drug therapies. This book is written from the perspective of a twelve year old child whose mother struggles with depression. Another easy read. (It's written for a young audience). I loved all the low German colloquialisms and the direct translation of grammer from that gutteral language. It was easy to relate to the story, having grown up in an extended family basted and marinated in all manner of mental illness challenges.

My head will be in yahnt zeed for a few days yet, anyways.
Nah, yo.
mein zeit!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sometimes You Think....

..... That what you have done on a Saturday morning is to volunteer for I Love To Read! month at a local mall by offering to spend a half hour reading to anybody's children who happen to show up with ears on.

But that's not it at all.

You did drive through a snowstorm in really poor visibility with a bag full of books, and you had every intention of reading to those children. You did make it to the mall without loss of life or limb. You did make your way to the center, and settle into a comfy wicker chair and wait the arrival of the youngsters.

But that's really not who came.
And that's really not why you came.

There was an entirely different appointment that had been set up, independent of the Arts Council, I Love to Read Month, or humans in general.


As I sat in that chair with my bag of books, I was relieved to be away from home for a change, and content to watch the local world walk by. Three women walked by, then paused, looked back and me, and spoke to one another. One of the women turned from the others, approached , and introduced herself to me.

Thus began the dialogue that convinced me again of God's goodness, of the intricate and layered nature of life and relationships, and of the beauty that can come of pain and vulnerability.

This stranger and I had shared one of life's bittersweet and complex experiences, but had not known one another. But we now resonated. We knew the complexities of love and hate coexisting. We knew the pain of their push and pull. We knew the sting of rejection; the ache for recognition, validation, the burn of inferiority.

And in that "chance" meeting of prior strangers, so much was validated and redeemed.
Something was confirmed and encouraged in us, and we were strangers no more.

So, sometimes when life doesn't go the way you had planned; just look between the layers. It may not be at all about what you sometimes think.

(I read one book to one child, and drove home in even worse visibility. And it was worth every minute.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

There is NO medication for this.

You know you've fallen through brand new cracks and well outside of the reaches of conventional medicine when....

You watch those de-cluttering shows on tv, then google for the address so you can get to the yard sale.

You feel overwhelmed at the clutter in your sewing room, so you go to the thrift shop to look for some vintage fabrics.

You own five kitchen tables.

You have so many plates, that you've begun to categorize them by colour and store them in rough totes in the garage.... and the basement.

You actually feel sorry for old things that might be abandoned in a landfill if you don't provide a warm and loving home. You can't leave them at the thrift shop or the yard sale and trust other people to step up.

You have buttons in ziplocs, tins, bowls and plates. You need more. Many of the ones you have are too wonderful to sew onto things and sell. How can you know that they will be lovingly cared for?!

You are obsessed with organizing, tidying, wiping, and clearing. Clutter makes you crazy.
For fun, you go out treasure hunting.

Due to your history of collecting and expiring pets, your garage houses: two hamster cages, a bird cage, and a pet taxi. They are all eerily empty.

Damaged books get picked up at junk places, thinking what wonderful business cards, birthday cards, and collages could be made with them. I rarely have the heart to rip them. I feel sorry for them.

Great admiration and pleasure is derived from other people's straight, tidy, uncluttered living spaces. Then one's mind wanders into imagining what lovely collections could be displayed here, there, and everywhere.

On de-cluttering expeditions, you covet throwing out all your husband's stuff so that you can drive to Rapid City, go see the world's best junk man, and bring home a trailer of really great stuff to put up around the house.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


It was a balmy minus ten, and with the windchill felt like a managable minus twenty-one. We strapped on our bonnets and flip flopped over to the church for a change in scenery. The kids were happy for a new space to run in and new toys to strew about. I was completely happy to drink someone else's coffee and eat someone else's cake and hear adults speak. In fact, I so enjoyed listening that I overstayed, and some gracious church saint offered to clean up the toy room for me and the kids.

(thanks Lisa).

Here's what I like about getting over to the church. I already mentioned the change in scenery, and since my sister refused to let me sneak in her suitcase to Mexico this morning, Maranatha church was a very close second. I love the conversation. There is no pattern to it. Sometimes it's silly and humurous. Sometimes its light and weather-related. Sometimes it's real people telling real stories about how they perceived a real God being in their real lives.

Pretty much I like all of it. Today I especially loved getting out of the ding-dang house, even when it involved swaddling six preschoolers in all manner of thermal wear. They are such lovely preschoolers, and I'm absolutely certain that they were glad to get out as well.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

people. PEOPLE! What Scurvey Luck!

(Bedknobs and Broomsticks)
This line from my childhood story on record has been bouncing around unrelentingly in my head over the past number of days. It's what the bear says after fishing in the beautiful briney sea and pulling up a bed filled with people. It was so not what he'd hoped to haul in.

And it fits.
It's great to theorize about people and how to get along with them, and how to be the sort of person that gives life to others. It's quite another thing to try and live the thing out. There are so many holes in my heart and in my perceptions. There is so much hunger and neediness and fear.
I love watching our dog Shadow when people come to the door, and especially when Brian comes home from work. She is unabashedly needy and enthusiastic. She launches herself at people, turns herself in circles, tries to grow wings and fly so she can cover mouths and noses with sloppy dog kisses. She never grows self-conscious or embarrassed of her neediness and enthusiasm. She doesn't appear to indulge self-doubt or construct alter-egos to hide her flawed self behind.

But I'm afraid my own neediness embarrasses me. My own vulnerabilites make me indulge in speculations and put thoughts in other people's heads. And worse than that, sometimes people just annoy me. It becomes a tricky balance to recognize my own frailties and acknowledge them, but not to the exclusion of all the simultaneous holes and neediness of the people I am interacting with. It's tempting to begin the compare my relational style with those of others. That's potentially dangerous because we all have our own strengths and weaknesses and the way to celebrate a strength is not by comparing it to anothers' weakness. It's cheap strokes to feel self-righteous by pouncing on someone else's apparent failures.

It's just sad to have a lightbulb moment and see that even when you are being "yourself" , you land up hurting and disappointing, ignoring and disregarding, or just generally annoying people. And you know that this phenomenon will never stop.

I don't know how anyone can stand to be a pastor or a counsellor. I imagine that people have some pretty massive expectations of their relational skills. I imagine that they are expected to be selfless at all times. To do this well and not land up drooling into a bib wrapped in a straight jacket must require a really intense knowledge of your place in God's set up. To do it well and maintain joy and peace must require a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit- a really effective running conversation with the Designer. And a pretty fine tuned knowledge of yourself- your strengths, weaknesses, temptations, typical pitfalls. I see these type of skills a great deal in the pastor of my church. I am hugely encouraged by this example. (I still don't want to be a pastor though....)

Ironically, I've also seen a lot of churched people fall into quite a trap of gossip and finger pointing. Alternately, a lot of nonreligious people have taught me respect for others, the guidelines of love and goodness, and the freedom in loving others without fear. That's not to suggest that church people got it wrong and yellow brand people have it all together relationally. That would be stupid and judgemental as well. It is evident that people who call themselves followers of Jesus don't hold all the relational cards (duh). Which leads me to think that it's more a matter of the heart? Do we get "points" for meaning well? Is it more important to remain supple and willing to learn, willing to humble self and ask questions? Sometimes Christians are so acclimatized to looking for categories of "right" and "wrong", that they forget that people's perceptions should probably trump all of that. And a lot of the time, relationships are just plain muddy. They require dialogue. Redefinition. Active listening.

People. What scurvey luck! A fish I could just fry and eat...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Weekend Reflections

I've wanted to do this for a really long time. I've lugged this window around, hauled it out from under a desk and fished around for where to place it on the wall, thought about what quilt pieces to use, then get interrupted by life and never have the chance to finish it. This weekend the earth stood still for a tiny time and I got the thing done! I don't even need YOU to like it; that's how much I love it.

The two middle pieces are out of the quilt that my sister Laura made for our wedding gift. It has disintegrated to the point of repurposing. There are some green calico pieces in there that came from one of my grandmother Marten's house dresses. I just love it. The bottom lower left piece comes from an old quilt that my friend Rose gave me when Arianna was a baby. It has taken me this long to be willing to cut a piece out of it. Now I get to enjoy it on my wall every day.
We sneaked a little thrift shopping time on our way to a family celebration in Winkler this Saturday. I found a great old suitcase for a dollar and a number of aprons and textiles for re-use. The messenger bag on the bottom of the photo I managed to put together on Saturday morning over a cup of coffee, sun coming in the window, and the kids creatively playing computer games.

This is my happy place. On Sunday mornings, I perch myself on the couch in front of the living room window with my coffee, my cat, my dog, my peace, and my quiet. Then I observe church culture across the street. I watch people and families go into the Mennonite church and speculate about the quality of their lives, their fears and disappointments, their beliefs and quiet doubts.
It was a good weekend. There was a subtle quality of heaviness to portions of it because of human relationships. That's how humans are though. And no matter what, I can never get quite enough of humans.