Sunday, April 21, 2013

Running For Martin

I felt like what I imagine an atheist approaching church doors would feel.

A block before my destination, I seriously considered walking a different direction. It was like voluntarily time-shifting back to grade eight recess intramurals. That torturous twenty minutes, three times a day, in the school gym, "playing" volleyball while the boy I have a crush on sits on the sidelines watching my utter failure, my inability to understand how to change positions, volley, serve, set, or in any way coordinate my upper body to my lower body; my right side to my left.

Oh. The humiliation.

I thought about changing my mind to "I'm just going for a walk, I'm not going anywhere in particular". But sometimes walking through the anxiety, recognizing it, and then choosing to continue with the agenda, is the right thing to do. There's a fear that leads to stretching in positive ways, and its a different fear than the one that warns you that you have a choice to say "NO" and that you ought to.

So, I walked on. Through the door that I knew in my most fattiest parts was the very door that fit, athletic, gym type people walked through on their way to lifting 50 million pound barbells while they stood on their heads and leapt vertically over barriers strewn across that foreign floor.

The walls were lined with athletic wear with actual people inside of them, fully capable of doing athletic types of things. These were not the yoga pants of Wal-Mart that nary a Namaste would meet.

I felt as familiar and comfortable as I might at a country line dance.

Or at a weiner roast in the kill room of a meat packing plant.

Or a fun and friendly day of hunting possom in the hills of Kentucky.

Which is to say that it was a case of "One of these things is not like the other".

My body betrays me sometimes, and people accuse me of looking "Like an athletic type- a volleyball player, or a runner"-- neither of which could be further from the truth. I'm an arty farty seamstress/hippy wannabe. My left side has never been properly introduced to my right. If moccassins came in two left sizes, I'd be putting in special orders.

And here I was. In a gym. It was a post on Facebook that brought me here- a post that resonated with some of what had made my heart ache and rage.

"If anyone in the community would like to come cheer us on as we participate in a memorial workout to children affected by terrorism/conflict please swing by tonight."

The website provided more incentive: "Today we will be participating as a community in one group workout at 6:30 pm. We will be doing the workout "MARTIN" named after the 8 year old boy who was killed Monday in Boston. We will not only be doing this workout in his memory, but in memory of ALL the children around the world who have lost their lives due to terrorism, conflict, and war.

Please bring your families out to cheer along the run route. If you can't workout, just come to cheer and if you've never been to ShopGym, still come out and cheer. There will be community time after the workout where we can just hang out."

Well, I know how to cheer. (although I tend to do so silently, with arms at my sides straight and still as a soldier's) And I needed something to stand up for. So, I made my way to Shopgym, even though I felt hives creeping up my cellulite as I walked up the two block route.

The welcome I received was genuine, surprising, and completely outside of any gym construct I have stored in my extensive mental archives. (Of course, they've never seen me not play volleyball, so they may have less evidence by which to hate me). There were hugs, warm welcomes, kind affirmations. Then there was a short speech, honouring children and innocents who have been affected by violence around the world, regardless of race, nationality or religion.

It was like being in church, except shorter, and without the awkward methodical drums and rocker wanna-bes coiffed behind echoing microphones.

The workout began with an eighty meter run, outdoors in the frigid non-spring of Manitoba.

I stood out in the freezing wind, watching people run. I noted the different styles of running- the ones who looked like they'd been born running with gazelles on the Mount of Kilamonjero, and those who ran slow and methodical. I stood, thinking of this boy named Martin, and about goodness, and grace, and perserverence. The children in my peripheral vision were a tiny piece if the innocents around the world, bouncing around, doing regular kid things, sometimes remembering to cheer for the runners.

Tears went dripping off my face as some of my mad made way for the sad. I am moved when people celebrate their passions in the name of justice, equality, and compassion. I am further moved when we can come together regardless of our gifts and talents. When we come together not only for Martin, but for children in Congo, North Korea, Afghanistan, China, Iran and we stand collectively to say: "PEACE! Please, in the name of all things righteous and Holy, give Peace a chance!" Even knowing that none of these bombers and governments, people in camo gear, the gun advocates, and the weirdos googling "How to make a bomb out of a pressure cooker" will ever really hear our voices or see the run.

Somehow its grace and goodness to stand out in the freezing Manitoba wind and say- "NO"! Somehow its hopeful to meet with people who can stand on their arms, leap up onto platforms in a single bound, run like the wind, or deadlift pianos.

I don't belong with them, and yet we belong together. I don't share their skills but I share in their heart, their intention, their cries for mercy. I'm not comfortable in their environment but I celebrate it nonetheless.

So, let's use our voices, no matter how mute and ineffective they may be. Let's show grace to people utterly unlike ourselves. Lets encourage each other to move towards less fear, less intimidation, and less silent resignation.

And in that teeny tiny prototype, I can only wish for those reverberations around the world.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I'm still not really over how weirded out I felt the day that Lady Diana and Mother Teresa both died.

I felt it again when Jack Layton died.

About a week ago, I learned that a close friend of our friends died of cancer after just a few weeks of hearing his diagnosis.

On Monday morning, a young woman died in a vehicle accident in the Steinbach area.

On Monday afternoon, my daughter Jane came down the stairs to tell me that two bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon.

On Tuesday, my sister came over for lunch. She said; "You heard about Marge Friesen?"

No. I had not.

Cancer. Two weeks.

Then she told me about the young woman who had died on Monday. I serve on the board with that woman's grandfather. My kids go to school with her cousins. I grew up with her father.

Today, the radio told me that Rita McNeil has died.


I'm mad. And rattled.

I know what's coming, and its more of the same. My dad will be ninety-one if he makes it to July. Sometimes I wish he wouldn't. My mom will be eighty-seven. She's still doing fine, but who am I kidding. If Lady Di and Rita McNeil and a 20 year old are dead, mom might not make it through tonight. I might not either.

I know I"m not unique. I'm no original thinker, and certainly not the first forty-something year old to ponder the length and meaning of life. There's nothing new about noticing that life is short and death abrupt and unexpected. I have no lesson to teach, no quote to indent about the meaning of life and the importance of living each day to its fullest.

In fact, today I just wanted everyone to go lie down in a hole. I was mad about Rita McNeil and Old Man Winter and my head cold. I was tired of talking about indoor voices when by all things bright and beautiful we should have been playing loudly out in the back yard for weeks now. I certainly wasn't trying to live this day like it was my last, which, by the way- is one of the dumbest things anyone could say. Everyone should definitely stop saying that because if today was my last day, I certainly wouldn't be making sandwiches and taking out the garbage or vacuuming the porch for the nine-hundred-millionth time.

So I'm pretty much in a really bad mood, and sort of mad at everyone for not fixing everything for me. I'm mad that life can be boring, and people disappointing, and nights can be too short. I'm mad that people die and that other people live and that everyone is going to get on some immediate, reactive rant about Muslims after this nightmare event in Boston. I'm mad that we live in fear, don't listen to one another, and that no one cleans the bathroom floor except me. And that no one cleans any other part of the bathroom except for me. I'm mad that the dog peed on my furniture, and that kids jumped on my other furniture, relegating two more armchairs to the garage to await their demise on town wide clean-up day.

Sometimes its so deeply satisfying to just be mad and grumpy. To not agonize over trying to find a silver lining. If my eight year old kid was standing at the end of a marathon, cheering on the runners, and then dropped dead because his little body got pounded full of bits of metal, I wouldn't mind knowing that someone, somewhere was just going with the mad.

Just don't try to get me to hate someone. Cuz that will make me mad.

And don't tell me that Rita died because she was too fat. That'll make me really mad. Nobody ever says that a movie star died from being too skinny, even though its probably true.


I'm mad. I'm mad at people with all their pat answers and little ditties and optimisms. I'm mad at all those other people for stewing around in their hatred, intolerance, judgements, and general pissiness. I'm mad at people for trying to say the right things, and I'm mad at the people who aren't even trying. I'm also mad that I don't have answers or constructs or boxes or cliches.

I'm mad that people are blowing each other up. I'm mad that we think its so unjust that it happens in the US when meanwhile, the US has also been perpetrating this same sad, inhumane, destructive, horrible death on civilians in other corners of the world. I'm super mad when people post pro-gun shit on facebook, mad enough to wonder how on earth I could have someone like that on my friend list. I'm mad about a fertilizer plant in Texas blew up, killing a bunch of people, and flattening out people's homes. I'm mad that love doesn't seem to be winning. We're raping the earth, raping each other. We're greedy, selfish, oppurtunist cattle. We work for a living so that we can go buy stuff at Wal-Mart, and then we're frustrated and mad that maintaining and paying for all our stuff takes up all our time.

I'm really mad about my own inadequacy, my own lack of tidy answers, my own greed.

I only hope that this is the kind of anger that burns off some chaff, and propels me in the direction of less compacency. I hope I can still be kind to the gun-lovers and the Muslim-haters.

Mad isn't necessarily Bad.

So for right now,

I'm mad.


Friday, April 12, 2013

I'm So Right Brained That I Thought It was Called Left Brained

I think in shapes and colours; not cold, hard facts. I think that should be called "Left-brained" thinker because it sounds so much more arty than right-brained. "Right-brained" sounds like a brain that gets all its facts right. "Left" sounds more like there's room for perceptual differences and finger painting.

I'm so right brained, that when I pulled up this picture, I got so caught up in all the pretty pictures of flowers and explorers, kites flying, and people building bridges that I quite forgot what I was researching for.

I actually pulled up these google images because I'm wondering- Should a right-brained girl whose so right-brained that she thinks she should be called left-brained because it sounds prettier serve on a board of directors?

According to my research, boards are made up of people who don't have faces.

Who love spread sheets.

Columns, facts, floor plans.

Suits, terrible chairs, and pinchy necklines.

I don't like any of those things and I have an undeniable face.

Note the words on the above diagram indicating the sort of brain that would do well in a board meeting: "fact based, quantitative, organized, sequential, planned, and detailed". Then compare and contrast with the words describing whatever side of brain I am- that one that can't remember if its left or right. "Holistic.... Intuitive.... FEELING based.... kinesthetic, and emotional.

Now try to imagine these two distinct people types discussing something business-like at a meeting.

On the Agenda:

  1. Proposal for renovations, new floor plan, rearrangement of store layout.
  2. Discussion regarding new security system.
  3. Planning of appreciation dinner.

The way I'd wrap it up: Let's just knock out some bricks and start by slamming a door in over there. I think it might look awesome. If we're wrong, we'll just knock out more bricks and make it an open floor plan. Instead of deciding where everything should go, shouldn't we just get started? I mean- how are you going to know where the best place to put a table until you actually start moving stuff?


What proper board members say:

So and So has drawn up a detailed floor plan, including where each stick of furniture is going to go. It's drawn to scale, and each chair, door jam, and dust bunny is drawn up on a seperate piece of paper so that we can spend months trying out different combinations. Not a brick nor stool shall be moved until this diagram reaches Biblical perfection.


Regarding the security system. Me: Really? Can't we all just be friends? If they steal all our silverware, how about we give them the candlesticks too?


Proper board members: Let's get together again and discuss this further. And after that, we'll talk about it again. Delegates A through seven can check out prices and warranties on security systems in the southeast quadrant of the four nearest cities. Delegates 11 to Eternity can phone all their relatives to find someone to install it for free. All remaining members prepare research papers on ideal placement of said security cameras. 10,000 words, double spaced, black ink.


Appreciation dinner: Me: well...... I hate hotdogs. What if somebody's mom were to throw together some veggies and dip, and we just kind of see what happens? We could always take a walk to the gas station if we need treats. And on the way there, who knows who we might run into? And that might take care of the need for entertaiment?


Proper boardmembers: At 12:00 noon sharp on the day after a full moon, four women are required to boil the potatoes of three major grocery store chains for exactly 15 minutes. Further instruction will be given at next month's board meeting.


And that's not even mentioning the financial report. Oh glory be, the financial report always makes me break into a cold sweat and hope there's no quiz.


I think that board meetings should always involve snacks and drinks, maybe some crayons so that we could all practise coloring outside of the lines. I think we should have some energetic music in the background, and maybe some throw pillows just for ambiance. But I guess that would be more like Friday night than a board meeting. Which again gives me pause, and makes me question:


Should a person without a linear thought in their head really agree to serve on a board??


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Day Trip to Otovalo, Leather Town, and Random Details

(yes.... still blogging about that trip that was a million years or a week ago. Might be boring and irrelevant to you, but if I don't record it, I fear how many memories will be lost! And such a precious thing must be protected).

One of the yummiest accidents I've ever enjoyed.

One of the many things I loved about Ecuador was the "random factor". You walk to the bus, parked three blocks from the hotel, since the streets around the hotel are waaaay to narrow for a bus for park on. Once you snake your way out of the city, you find yourself on a gorgeous three lane highway. (that switch-backs up and down and around and around to get you out of a massive valley). Along the way you'll see fifty million random roaming dogs, people sitting along the curb of the busy highways, random "guerilla kitchens" just about anywhere.

Like, say, in a gas station. I got off the bus to go use the banos (toilet is a word you learn pretty much right away because you can't live long without a toilet). In the gas station where you could buy the typical road snacks like chips, water, pop, candy, is a small table containing a bowl of beans and some trimmings. I watched some tiny mountain women in front of me get dished up an unfamiliar dish of white beans, roasted corn, plantain chips, and a sort of salsa made out of spanish onions, tomatoes, and maybe lime and vinegar.

I asked; "quantos?" which so far has meant that people tell me how much something is, even if I might be spelling and saying it mostly wrong. The lunch lady said "Un dollar". YES!!

I got back on the bus and enjoyed one of the yummiest of all time simple dishes of my life! So good.

At a gas station, you might also find Panama hats.

And random doggies.

If you want to, you can pick up an ice cold road beer for about a buck.

Or a beautiful mountain girl who sings indigenous songs into a microphone for us, tells us via our translator that she is nineteen and saving up money to further her education, and then weaves her way through the bus to sell us Ecuadorian scarves. I think she did really well on the whole scarf thing because she was so kind to share herself with us, and I just really admired her pluck.

There was much to see in Otovalo.

roughly a zillion kiosks selling much of the same things over and over again, sometimes with variations.

But no duplicates on the intricacy of the human faces.





Ponchos and sweaters.

Hard core artwork. (Brian plays guitar like that all the time. On weekends. In the summertime.)

Shirts, alpaca blankets, crazy hats, backpacks.

A gringo in a Panama hat carrying a giant camera.




Shopkeepers chilling out to some board games.

I enjoyed the bustle, the colors, the smells.



Our younger travel companions came away not looking a bit like tourists.

We decided on alpaca blankets for the kids, some leather belts, a shirt for Brian, a baby dress for someone special at home, llama socks, and some art for Brian.

On the trip back to Quito, we also stopped in "leather town". I'm sure it has a proper name but I certainly don't know it. All I remember is that it sells a lot of leather.


I noticed the beggers here, as they were distinctively teeny tiny and barefoot. I felt sad and helpless so I gave them some change, but really wondered what their stories were.


When I say teeny and tiny, I'm not exaggerating.

I look like I could scale tall buildings in a single bound.

I did buy a small handbag in leather town. It was kind of creative.

Our trip to Otovalo wasn't exactly what I'd expected; if one can have expectations based on absolutely nothing but one's imagination. There was a lot of repetition in the market, and the merchandise was much the same as we'd seen in Quito and Banos. I enjoyed that the vendors weren't super high pressure and didn't harass us if we responded with a "no, gracious". I loved the colors and the people, the fresh fruit, hot sun, and the cold beer. I didn't see any of the textiles that I'd imagined, but that didn't mean that I was disappointed. The alpaca was luxurious, and any time wandering around in a market place is a pleasure for me.

I often enjoyed shopping in the grocery store that was right next door to our hotel in Old Quito. It was a "Tia Mart", and I found it relieving to know what the prices were without having to ask or barter. For .69 I could buy a tray of sliced pineapple when the fried food all around me got to looking like a super bad idea. We also took advantage of the .89 Pilsenner beer in the fridge- ice cold and such a delightful treat for a Canadian not at all used to finding beer in gas stations and convenience stores.

One night instead of going out for dinner, we went and bought some baguette, cheese and some weird meat (Brian's idea, not mine). It went perfectly with 89 cent beer.

I found Snob jam at the Tia Mart. Too bad we don't get that here, I know some people that would be perfect for.

Sangria in a tetra pack for $2.59. Also probably not a great idea.

Why waste perfectly good fridge space when you can stack eggs right on the shelf?

Or how about a little Pork in cellophane?

Whereas this stuff was like poor man's crack cocaine to the likes of me. Crunchy, salty, yummy.

Ecuador, you were good to me.

I stood on your equator.

Walked along your pathways.

Stared at your busy streets.

Ate your fascinating dishes.

I don't know if we'll meet again, but I do know that I don't regret a moment.