Friday, June 27, 2008


I haven't spent as much time over here at Blunderview. Clearly because I've plumb run out of time; being a do-gooder and all over at the Darfur blogspot. But there's more to it than that, and in my typical unedited manner, I think I'm ready to explore some of those reasons today.

Today would be my brother's 45th birthday. It has been two years since that terrible day when the news came in that the pain in his back and legs was much, much more insidious than we had ever once imagined. And less than two months later, my handsome, brilliant, funny, brother was an ungodly shade of taut green skin when he breathed his last. Horrifying.

The pain came and comes in ways that I would have never expected. I have hurt. I have hurt others. Some of it is irreparable. I don't like to speak of it, but I feel it in my stomach if I allow my head to think of it at all. I wear scars on my body and my heart from the ways in which the pain tried to leach its way out. The weight of the pain dragged up with it many other pains that had been held at bay for years, and had been manageable or at least hide-able. And that, of course, had its own ripple effect and caused pain in others. There's no simple answer. Some regret, but the utter absence of "woulda, shoulda, coulda's". It was all real. It was (is)incredibly difficult.

Therefore, through three extreme Manitoba seasons, I made my way up three flights of stairs to go and bare my heart to a stranger. Baring my heart, or attempting to do so, to people I know and love was just too layered; too enmeshed. And my latent illness kept popping up the lid of the can I held it in. It frightened me. I knew that if I were to give advice to someone else in my position it would be to seek professional help, so I complied. The fear and dread of the chronic and progressive nature of my illness, and the telltale signs that were already upon me drove me onward.

And a year later, I can see that it was worth it. The inconvenience, the frustration at not always being understood, the agony of crying the tears, the forced oppurtunity to sit and be still, and allow those emotions to be fully recognized, felt, named, befriended.

Which brings me to Blunderview. It has been a great tool for me. The sitting down, exploring, expressing, and the subsequent spawning of authenticity in relationships. Every now and again I become frightened about the amount of vulnerability I have spilt here. But the truth is that I don't want it any other way. Life is short, and too much of our culture hinges on the way things appear. That's not a voice I am willing to adopt. I would rather provide an alternate voice. A voice that may be more raw than polished. A voice that asks questions. Can not provide the correct answers. A voice whose center resides in Jesus, the embodiment of God. Without apology.

It is an amazing thing when a person decides to stop looking for permission to live out loud. Some of it has resulted in very painful losses. Misunderstandings. Sadnesses. But the flip side is that now, at the age of forty, I am finally getting a clearer sense of what I want to be when I grow up. I've always been a late bloomer, but at least I have a shot at blooming at all.

A few years ago, I had a God-given word that planted itself firmly in my brain. It was "Rest". God knows I'm not much good at that. I prefer to be busy, busy, busy. But the kind of rest that I am learning is more internal, and less external. It sits somewhere near my core, and its a safe place to retreat to. It reminds me that I don't have to know everything. It reminds me about trust, and moving slowly when life swirls too fast. It reminds me that I can't please everybody, and that I've never been designed to do so. It helps me remember that the fears I have today about uncertainties in my life will not consume me. Life is not static, and the pain that consumes me today will continue to evolve, if I don't aggressively try to fight it away, or stuff it into a tidily labelled box.

Life just isn't tidy. But along the rows that we try so hard to plant in an orderly fashion that spring up weeds and canola and quack grass; there exists an exquisate beauty. Plunk yourself down in the very middle of all of it- the planned and the unexpected. Take it all in. Learn from the very thing that you desparately want to wish away.

And then tell someone else about it. We're not meant to go this alone.
So, to all my faithful lurkers and commenters, thanks for Blunderview. Its weeds and flowers have enriched my life in ways I could not have known.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


It's been quite a ride, this June. In May, I said that I would like to see the project's support to Darfur increase by 40%, since the UN announced its decrease in rations by that amount. One short month later, I realize that support has actually increased by at least 400%, considering that the bags which used to sell at $25.00 now regularly bring in a hundred or more. Kind of makes me think of that bit in the Bible that says; "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over....." My further hope is that every bit of this food aid is getting to the suppressed in the camps. We can never imagine the life they try to scrape out in such destitution. We can't even comprehend the will to live.

As for me and my house? I continue to strive for balance. My biggest concern is my role as a mom. Especially as the children grow older. The preschool bits I have quite a bit of confidence about, seeing as I've been at it since about grade six. That's when I started baby-sitting and I've never really quit. But around here, we are entering some less familiar territory as the girls embark on their teen years. I won't be able to measure their love, or my adequacy in parenting them by counting sloppy kisses. Those days are behind us. The early, formative years are crucial, yet the following years are the ones that my children will likely not forget. It will form their opinions about what sort of home they grew up in, what their parents did "right" or "wrong", and what was important in their household. It is four short years until I am the parent of an adult. Inconcievable.

I'm going to need more of that God stuff.

This week is special. The children are finishing up school for the year. We will begin summer time, with it being Sam's last full summer before he becomes a school kid as well. We begin to anticipate trips to the cabin and time spent with faraway cousins. We begin to think about what we need for weeks away at camp. Brian and I prepare for Winnipeg Folk Festival, this year the both of us volunteering with the "le cusiene" crew. What an awesome time we are going to have together- it's been ten years since we were able to make it to the FF together. One of the benefits of the kids no longer being preschoolers!

I can look forward to fewer preschoolers in the house, as the teacher parents in my crew take their kids home for the summer. Alternately, I try to accomodate for the fact of my own children being at home. Try again to teach them to clean up after themselves, be active, pull their weight around the place, live less entitled. (*sigh*) We get to "use" our friends who put up a gigantic 27 foot round pool in their back yard. We can use them for their trampoline as well, since ours ripped after many years of faithful service, around the same time that the washing machine and sewing machines decided to go on disability. I hate stuff sometimes. Just as much as I love it.

So, that's it for a bit of inventory this morning. A thing not to be taken for granted that there is so much good to list. What about you? Top three things on your mind as you embark on your summer? Share them with me; it will make counting inventory a little more interesting.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Good Problems

May all your problems be good problems. May fabrics cover every horiontal surface of your cramped living spaces. May colour schemes and designs cause you to saute velvety remnants in cast iron for dinner. May your days be ever too short, regardless of how early you begin and how late you flog yourself onward. May your machines multiply as Abraham's descendents. May the dandelions in your boulevard dance in the wind as your heart dreams of bigger spaces with less fertility. May you be overwhelmed with the goodness in others around you. May your goosebumps develop shivers in the presence of orange and green batiks from Barundi; greens and browns from Tanzania; and tukels from the hillsides of Ethiopia.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Sixth-Born

Last weekend a friend and I went on a bit of a "sale-ing" trip. Unlike the trip before it, where ice cream pails and tomato-stained tupperware were on special; this Saturday was a sure winner. I had the heart-stopping joy and exhileration of discovering this "Vulcan Child's Hand Operated Sewing Machine" carelessly tossed onto a table amongst hairy elastics and "Buns of Steel" exercise tapes. In its original box! It was one of those moments where I feared that in my excitement, I might just turn out and run away in fear of not being able to cope with the adrenalin rush.

Colour wise, it is also an excellent choice. We wouldn't want any one tone of machine dominating the place, or anything. We've got the three actual work machines right now. All in workerman shades of beige and white. Functional, sensible, humble, industrious beige. Then in the "Don't-Hate-Me-Because-I'm-Beautiful" category; we now have the old black singer. Kind of the matriarch of the place- an elder, I suppose you could say. She tones down the brazen, shameless hussy of a princess machine- Old Pinkie. Pinkie is just in a class of her own. She has special priveleges, so even if she is a bit stupid, and crass, all is forgiven. And now, it's like we have a second generation coming into the mix! Our little darling. Our little Vulcan, in neither black nor pink but more of a discreet shade of café au lait, camel, coffee, dun, ecru, fawn, or oatmeal *

(compliments of msn encarta thesaurus. I'm not that versed on these ridiculous names for colours....)

Keep your eyes peeled in the next issue of your local small town newspaper. I think I may get the whole gang to pose for one of those wildly exciting photographs of third and fourth generation family shots....

Thursday, June 12, 2008

John Wilkes Booth; I'll Be Your Groupie Forever...

So, there I was. Loaded down with Darfur bags, and sitting on a mall bench across from Chapters. One by one they came, these beaming women with goodness to spare. They claimed their bags, shared their wealth, their enthusiasm, and cemented my belief that there are many, many good people left in this world.

But inevitably, the conversation would wander, or speed, over to five-hundred-dollar-guy. Did I know him? (no). Did I come alone, or with my body guards? Did I wonder if he was a creep? a prankster?

We began simultaneously eyeing up every single man who wandered past us, checking for shifty eyes, bulgey pockets, or sinister laughter.

One by one, the bags walked away with their women, and I was left waiting.
My suspicions grew. I phoned home to ask my husband if anybody had left an e-mail about what an idiot I'd been to give that offer any credence. I began to form the post that I would write, what fun I would have with my tongue in my cheek, and my most slanted humour showcased.

But then.... There he was!
I can spot a Darfur person a mile away. Their eyes shine. Their hearts are located directly behind their eyeballs, with a grin just ahead of it. I was glad that I wouldn't have to take that banana bread home with me- looking like a housewife gone mad. The woman who brings her baking to the foodcourt in recycled ziploc bags....

But back to the million dollar man five hundred dollar darling.
Yes, he is real. Yes, he really donated a wad of cash for the people of Darfur. But he was also lovely, polite, appreciative, supportive, humble, gifted, and just a tiny bit forgetful. He took the bag, chatted about making a difference politically, gave that hug, drooled on that banana bag, and even posed for a headless shot of the mystery man with the Darfur bag. Then with a wave and a grin, he began to make his way down the corridor.

"Hey!" I shouted, my suspicions re-surfacing.
"You never paid for that bag!"

Sweet and sheepish he returned, mumbling apologies and embarrassments, and digging that wad out of his back pocket.

I feel a little ferkempt. A lot excited. Super-charged. Grateful.
Everybody does their part, and you know what? Differences can be made. God made us all different, but its like the bit in the Bible that talks about it being like the parts of the body, all working together, and scrapping the uselessness of comparing the eye to the knee; the ear to the nose; or the bernina to the fiddle.

Thank you, John Wilkes Booth. But just as much, thank you to anyone; anyone who does what they can instead of worrying about what they can't. The spillover effect is tremendous. It reminds me of a story my friend Rod told me about living with an open hand- to give is to receive. Just don't get it backwards, or I'll have to box you in the ears. You don't give because you want to get. That's as common as the day greed was invented.

We were born in North America and that geography becomes our destiny. Don't hold it to yourself, but use it as a launching pad to make a difference in your world.

Our world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ma and Pa Kettle

The folks had their birthdays this week. Pa turned 86 on the seventh, and ma make the big 82 just yesterday, so we pulled out all the stops to celebrate with them. The van got loaded down with three kids, two relatives, some soup bones, fresh rhubarb from the garden, and the pellet gun for grandma. We roared to their town to take them out to the fanciest restaurant we could conjure up. Dairy Queen. Grandma didn't quite have the time to make us rabbit stew before our dessert, as she was wrestling the gun and cartridge out of grandpa's arms to get her artillery into the garage- afraid he might practise on the china cabinet in his post-stroke efforts to get the weapon loaded for her. The garden munching bunny would have to wait until tomorrow; when she would be eighty-two and a day.

My mom and dad certainly put a new angle on growing old. They are pretty plucky to be living in their own home, with a large garden and lawn that they mow, till, plant, and maintain on their own. After dad's stroke, he bought himself a scooter so that he could remain mobile and independent around town. After grandma rolled the caravan, they researched and bought a replacement vehicle that she learned how to drive to get her and dad to appointments and church functions.

And God help the rabbit who helps himself to grandma's freshly planted rows of beets and carrots. She's not too old to down that little fella with her first shot.

Happy birthday mom and dad.
Thanks for blazing a great trail, but I'll remember to stay off it if it wanders through the garden...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hey, Clooney-- Get Your OWN Idea!!

Buy George Clooney's Gift Bag For Darfur

April 25, 2008 by
Tim Saunders
If you just can’t resist
George Clooney -and let’s face it, who can – then you definitely won’t be able to resist checking out the new charity auction featuring the chance to pick up some of his unwanted bits and pieces.
The actor and
UN Messenger of Peace has put his Oscar Nominees Gift Bag up for auction to benefit Not On Our Watch, the charity he set up with Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and Jerry Weintraub to end genocide in Darfur. The gift bag is filled with a range of elegant items such as a Personal Heineken Beer Tender, Marilyn Monroe ‘Classic Series’ wine goblets, exclusive spa packages including a gift certificate for a two night stay at La Costa Resort and Spa, Oscar Gold Havaianas, a Swarovski Crystal Pet Collar, and more.

Okay, so the Re-joyce Bags for Darfur may not have that tiny little throw-in Swarovski Crystal Pet Collar, but don't underestimate just what you might find instead! Stray threads that didn't get clipped in time. A pair of pants turned into pockets. And much like the Golden Ticket coveted in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, one of our Darfur bag supporters recently came across a rather exhilerating surprise in her purchase as well.

She was fortunate enough to get her hands on one of the button flower bags, that anyone who slept on sheets in the 70's gets a little choked up about. She dove her hands into that field of flowers and was pierced to the heart. No, that's not it. She was pierced at the a needle and thread so thoughtfully left there for her, should she ever be at a formal function and find all the buttons on her dress pop off simultaneously.

So, George-- What would she have done with the pet collar in that instance, I ask you?

Friday, June 06, 2008

She Gets Out of the House!

It was shaping up to be a glorious friday. The van was in the garage, and there were only a few kids kicking around the place. Practically a day off. Perfect oppurtunity to head into the city and pick up the two convalescing sewing machines from the repair hospital. In our enthusiasm, we arrived a half hour before the shop opened, so we headed off to McDonald playland for some crawling about in germs and puke and salt and ketchup. It was a huge hit, and the machines got picked up in time for us to make a stop at the Dollar store for some odds and ends for the house. I got really happy when I discovered that they carried the XL ziploc style bag- the sort that one can use for sleeping bags, or basketballs, or in my case.... a wonderful way to see an assortment of fabrics but contain them instead of letting them breed shamelessly across the sewing room floor, into the living room, and likely trailing out the back of my pants. The kids were like little angels. They never begged or whined once. Really. Well, my own verged on whining once or twice, but never enough to ruffle my chin hairs.

We arrived home in time for lunch. Except that I had packed my kids lunches in the morning, not wanting to re-commit a former sin of them coming home for lunch and finding me... well,,, not home. So, there we were. The kids happily got into toys and practising scissor skills. I managed to practise a little scissor skilling of my own, just with a different medium than electronics flyers. The cat jumped up onto my sewing table and crawled into my basket of trims and ric rac, and settled in for a lovely, rainy day nap. I imagined that our puppy Shadow would be curled up on a pile of laundry in the bathroom, yawning and licking.

But two hours later, it seemed like an awfully long nap for a puppy.

I looked in her dog bed. I looked at the laundry. I checked all the fabric bits laying here, there, and everywhere. Nothing.

She was so happy when we got home, that she raced into the garage to cover us with sloppy kisses. I got all the kids in out of the van, out of the garage, and into the house. I repeated the same procedure with the bread, the XL ziplocs, the duct tape, and the bobby pins.

I assumed the dog would get herself into the house.
I guess my timing for shutting the door to the garage was a little off.
Boy, was she happy to see us, all over again!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Short Tutorial on Housekeeping

A. Picking rhubarb, cutting rhubarb, finding a rhubarb recipe, then placing said items on the counter for one to three days does not currently, and will not ever, produce rhubarb muffins.

B. Cleaning one's undies and t-shirts, taking the time to put them in the appropriate drawers in the appropriate rooms, does not guarantee that they will not become fur-lined undies and t-shirts before one has the oppurtunity to glean the benefits of getting to one's laundry.

C. Providing a "doggie pad" does not in any way guarantee that your pet does not prefer to urinate upon whatever fabric was so thoughtfully placed on the floor in the sewing room prior to retiring to one's bed for rest.

*D. Preparing healthful meals at appropriate times.... daily.... Does not suggest that young, responsible adolescents will not take an interest in their own needs for health and vitality.

E. Although at first glance one might easily become confused, this coffee table/ trunk conveniently placed near the couch and television, is not actually a dishwasher.


F. A bathroom is actually not a craft center, writing desk, tool caddy, or toy trunk.
G. I am quite sure you have heard of a self-cleaning oven?
I hear that with tremendously high temperatures, they can actually clean themselves. This is however, pertinent to ovens, and as far as I know, the technology has not advanced to include countertops.

I know it's all very confusing, and is a lot of information for people to absorb and practise, but it is all true.


I kid you not.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

From Bags To Riches

.......... For me, I mean.

Last night, Michele agreed to let me use her home as a crack house bag depot for people to come and pick up their goods. We had a lovely stack of them, and one by one, these "strangers" made their way up to the door and I let them in (secretly pretending that it was me who lived in this gorgeous chunk of brick and wood and tin ceilings....)

I think I met some of the nicest people on the face of the earth! (actually, more nice people, since I already have met quite a number...)

All the "nutrients" that were sucked out of me last week from many manic hours at the sewing machine began to seep back into my bones as we talked about Darfur, making changes in our own corners of the world, bag mania, fabric, and buttons. These women just shone with something life-giving and it spilled out of them as we discussed balance and joy and creativity.

I left richer.
One person can't do a whole lot to change a horrific reality. But something magical starts to happen when we stand behind and beside one another in support and active concern.

I heard a story some years back during a particularily yucky, stressful, impoverished portion of my life. It was about turnips. The somebody in this anecdote had very little except a whole lot of debt and uncertainty, and a particularly proliferous crop of turnips. He decided that he needed to give. And all he had to give were turnips, so he turned his head around and began to give what he had, and began to think less about what he needed.

I don't remember the end of the story, but I don't think the end matters that much. I think the point is that when we get our heads out of our bums, look around at some way to plant something, or grow something, or give something.... There are crops of joy to be had. Not that you plant them with the intent of it being all about you, and what you might stand to gain out of it. You may struggle with that along the way, but you remember that life is community. We need one another. We need to listen to that still, small voice of God. And since he used a tonne of creativity and made everyone differently, you really can't read a book of someone else's ideas of who you should be in this world. Who were you made to be? And what portions of that can you give away?

And if it's turnips, that's a whole lot more than nothing.

A big shout-out to the Darfur supporters. You fed me something yummier than turnips last night (though I must say, mashed turnips are pretty yummy...) And maybe you didn't know it.
But this is what I mean about community.

Out of the overflow of your hearts, you filled mine back up.
So, with a tummy full of turnips, and a heart restored, I think I'm going to go sew something...

Monday, June 02, 2008

It Wouldn't Be Blunderview If She Didn't Evaluate Every Emotion To Death

It's funny (strange; not hardy har) that when life goes along swimmingly in a positive direction, it automatically triggers its equal and opposite emotional reaction. Have things gone beyond my expectation, hopes, or fantasies? So far, Yes! The support (moral and financial) for the project has been pouring in. Such beautiful support. Such good people all around. So, why do I feel so sad? (while simultaneously feeling overjoyed...)

It's that darned emotional plunger again. Whenever it plumbs the depths of my emotional pit, it drags up great clots of other emotions that I'd sometimes prefer remained undisturbed. The great blobby, messy tears that spill out after an experience of sheer exhileration. The feelings of inadequacy. The desire to hide, while simultaneously wanting to shout aloud in the highways and biways and live life large; not small. But can I do it? When will the gig be up? When will I be pulled up short by my humanity? And who cares? I wish I didn't. I really wish I didn't care.

Perhaps the most sobering aspect of something going well is the fullblown recognition that the parts that were going not-so-well remain unchanged. Kind of like thinking that a boob job will fix your lovelife and then discovering that your husband still really doesn't like you. That the sink still leaks. The the socks still stink. That the nice firm boobs make your butt look jiggley.

I imagine the treatment for all these sad emotions getting dragged up is to simply feel them. Not try to hurry too much for resolution. I think it is healthy to let all this stuff bubble to the surface. I think it needs recognition. But wouldn't it be wonderful to one day move entirely away from guilt and condemnation, and to just simply.... Be? To embrace one's rightful place in this world and use all this energy for love and social change?

At any rate, this much I know. Time keeps passing relentlessly. I think I'd still like to work at being brave and live a full life, making mistakes and likely disappointing people all along the way than to lay down quietly and wait to die.