Sunday, May 8, 2016

I Don't Think They Make a Card for That...

Today is Mother's Day here in Canada.  When I was a kid, it was a day for cheesy cards, lovingly made pasta necklaces and fingerprint art and moms being given a carnation at church.  It seemed so umcomplicated.

As an adult, though, I have come to appreciate that Mother's Day is fraught with sadness for so many people.  In our own circle, I have heard painful, painful stories of dear friends who were told they couldn't have children (and these friends live in a small town and as people whose jobs are very rewarding, being a bride and having babies are the only real ways to be special), friends who have undergone traumas related to complex fertility treatments, friends whose mothers were not nurturing and loving for a variety of reasons and whose kids have come away with painful scars (like the boy in my class this year whose abuse at the hands of his addicted mother have led to him living only with his loving but overwhelmed dad), friends whose mothers suffer from mental illness or Alzheimers, friends who have never found a life partner and whose dreams of a family have passed them by as they age and friends who have suffered pregnancy loss or even the loss of a child (this is especially fresh as we have a family at the school at which I teach who lost their 10 year old son to cancer last Sunday).  I know that especially for moms who don't work outside the home, whose worlds don't involve a whole lot of compliments and recognition, it's nice to have a day in which they get to be the star.  For so many others, though, it's a day of pain and powerful reminders of dreams that won't come true and feelings of being left out of life's joys.  It really makes me think that we need to find another way to celebrate to recognize those moms but also to recognize the pain, too.

It makes me think of offering some kind of "nurturing day", a day in which we celebrate all of those who nurture other people.  I heard a story last year that has really stayed with me and today, it fits what I am thinking about.  A friend works in a community in which she is dealing with a lot of youth who are suffering and excluded.  She told me about a gay couple who had always been dreaming of adopting children and being parents.  For a variety of reasons, this never came to pass.  For a while, they were really sad and gave up on their dreams.  Then, at some point, they realised that there was a group of orphans who desperately needed care and they could meet that need.  They decided that they would "adopt" older kids, teens who had been disowned by their parents for their sexuality.  They stepped into the breech and gave a place to "go home" for kids whose homes had been denied them.  While I realised that for some, this isn't what they think of when they think "Mother's Day" and I doubt that there is a card made for this scenario but to me, THESE are nurturers who deserve to be celebrated.  There are the teachers who buy shoes for the kids whose families don't have the means to give them, there are the old single ladies and widows at church who have selflessly taught the little kids Sunday school class for years and are a loving force for so many little ones growing up in the church, there are the "aunts" and "uncles" who may never have their own kids (whether family by blood or by love) who put themselves out to make a safer world for other people's kids.  There are those who are "parenting" their elderly parents and who are dealing with burdens as heavy or heavier than most parents bear.  All of these people deserve the cheesy card and the carnation and they are no lesser because they didn't necessarily do the labour and delivery. 

That's my desire this year.  I want to look for opportunities to be that nurturer - to love those who need to feel some unconditional love and to say thank you to everyone who is nurturing, often in the shadows.  You are doing God's work and living out the gospel message. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Yarn Along

I love visiting the Yarn Along carnival over at Small Things by Ginny.  I have grabbed so many new books to read and added so many wonderful patterns to my favourites list.  I hope I can share a few interesting gems for everyone else!

This week has been a week of little knitting and lots of reading for me.  I've been really, really tired (just life, nothing exciting) and reading in bed has been such a blessing.  I just haven't had the energy to do the knitting that I want to be doing.  It doesn't help that Dh has his musicals that he directs at his school this week and so we haven't been driving in together for the last two weeks or so, which has taken away my knitting in the car time.  I'm looking forward to getting that back at the end of the week.

In my reading, I've had quite a few books on the go.  In terms of non-fiction, I've been slowly making my way through a couple of books - Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans and Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott.  I know that these authors aren't for everyone.  They are definitely on the liberal side of things and especially in the case of Anne Lamott, I think she may even be a bit on the liberal side for me.  I find her easy to read and very engaging but, perhaps because I grew up in traditional church and she didn't, at times, I find her hard to connect with.  Rachel Held Evans is much easier for me.  I find her so thoughtful and such a perfect blend of liberal and yet with a love of the church.  I'm enjoying it so much.

In terms of fiction, I'm also reading two books - Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs and The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley.  I have had Miss Peregrine on my to-read list for a while and when I finished the Sarah Addison Allen I was reading, I decided to go back to my shelf and browse.  It's certainly different but I am a bit fan of the Welsh setting, especially when fairly recently, I had really enjoyed the BBC Wales series Hinterland.  The Shadowy Horses, by Susanna Kearsley, was recommended by a friend.  This friend is a huge reader and always has something new for me to try.  She had just finished reading two books by Susanna Kearsley and felt I would like her.  I'm enjoying the book so far - how can you go wrong with a book set in Scotland?

I can't wait to see what everyone else is reading and stitching!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Winner Takes All

According to my stats page, I have nine followers.  I don't know who they are and if I do have followers, it's probably by accident.  I'm sorry if you are putting up with my aimless rants but I am grateful!  I feel like blogging is such a nebulous thing - there is a form to it but I wasn't taught it in school.  I'm never sure how a post should be put together and truly, I'm writing more for me than for someone else.  Sometimes, the words need to pour out and my hand gets less sore when I type than when I write.  If you are here and actually reading this, thank you for your patience.

Pk skates at our town skating club.  It's a fairly small club, especially when you get past the younger levels.  There are lots of "Canskaters" but when you get to the "Starskaters", the classes get much smaller.  We have great coaches (who also coach at larger and more competitive clubs) so I don't feel like we are missing out.  There isn't too much pressure on the kids and the girls really support each other.  I've been grateful that somewhere, for once, there doesn't seem to be the same pressure to be the best.

The other day, I was chatting to one of the mothers there.  She's someone that I really like and someone who I have commiserated with on the challenges of parenting on several occasions.  We started talking on the growth planned for communities close to ours (although, thankfully, our town is in designated Green Belt, agricultural land, so our immediate area won't be changing).  She expressed that our club is going to need to grow to meet the population demand.  She said that she had been talking to someone who had been a national figure skater for a while and had asked him what he thought about our club.  His response was that it was, "a good recreational club."  She expressed to me that this was such a terrible criticism and that our club was going to have to get more competitive.  I wanted to cry.  Why???

I think that the biggest shock of my life happened when Pk was born.  Normal, rational people, women who had been lovely all along, suddenly became promoters for their children.  Their children were always outstanding - potty training, sleeping through the night, talking, eating... whatever it was, their children were exceptional.  I was stunned.  For a people like me who has always struggled with inadequacy, the constant, ongoing competition totally made me want to hide.  I won't lie, at times, the sense of needing to keep up has made me a parent that I am not proud of and has made me see my kids with eyes that I don't want to have.

I liken it a bit to our dog experiences.  I grew up as a dog lover.  We had a Brittany, Flora, and I adored her more than words can ever express.  She was my best friend, my almost constant companion, my one-dog cheering committee who was always in my corner, no matter how much I had messed up or how awful I was being.  When she died, I was absolutely devastated.  She was a piece of me and I missed her more than I can say.  When it came time for Dh and I to get a dog, we decided to get another Brittany.  Long story short, the breeder would only sell us a puppy if we would agree to show it.  Before I knew it, we had been sucked into dog shows, field work and obedience competition.  Everything was about being the best and beating everyone else.  I knew that people were constantly looking at our beautiful Chelsea girl and cataloguing her faults.  At times, I did it, too.  I always saw her through the lens of measuring.  I looked back at photos of Flora and all I could see was how imperfect she was in terms of what she was supposed to be.  My view had totally changed and instead of just seeing the beautiful heart of the dog, I saw her flaws and how she didn't measure up.

I feel like parenting has been that way for me.  Maybe it is just the people around me but with only a few exceptions, I feel like many of those around me are constantly evaluating and cataloguing their kids.  There are the friends with whom I can't have a conversation that doesn't include either how bored this children are at school because they are just so bright, the number of goals the child has scored in hockey in the last little bit, the comment the teacher made about how exceptional the child is or the immense talent that the child has in music/athletics/karate/reading, etc., etc., etc.  It makes me feel so inadequate and as if my children are useless.  I know I should just ignore it all and let it go away but I am not good at that.  I've really been spending a lot of time praying to see my kids through God's eyes and to see who they are and build them up, rather than trying to fit them into perfect little boxes.  I am finding, more and more, especially as Pk gets older, that I don't want her to do things for ribbons, medals or prizes.  I want her to have the chance to do something because she loves it or because she is learning from it or because it fits with who she is.  I don't want to be measuring and anyway, whose measuring stick are we using?  There is only one child who can be the best in each competition, does that mean that all the others don't matter?

I don't know whether anyone else struggles with this or see it, but I am beginning to think that we are not doing our kids any favours.  Yes, they will play piano beautifully and/or be able to outskate everyone and/or be able to boast that they have report cards full of A's and/or spell every word ever written but truly, does that make them any happier?  Does that make them more valuable members of their families, better contributors to their communities?

It's time to stop putting so much pressure on our kids and to TRULY (and not just give lip service to) appreciate who they are, their gifts and talents and flaws.  They need to be allowed NOT to win the medal, not to get the ribbon but to enjoy themselves and try their bests and that needs to be seen as having its own value. 

I don't have all the answers and I am the first to say that my type-A, need-to-prove-myself mentality struggles with this.  I just hope that we can see what we are doing to our kids with all of this pressure and ease off before we create a generate that doesn't know joy in anything.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Yarn Along

Hooray!  After several weeks of crazy (the biggest event being the skating show for which I ended up being "den mom" - in charge of almost 100 young skaters waiting for costumes and skates to be tied - aaahhh!!!!), things are starting to settle down and I can see signs of routine coming back into our lives.  I can't express how happy I am that it's over an that life can be normal (or as "normal "as it gets in our house).   It's so nice to return to Ginny's Yarn Along!

My knitting has been coming along slowly.  I am still working on the feather and fan baby blanket and I finished another pair of legwarmers and have started a third pair.  The one pair I made were too small so they went to a friend of Pk.  It's fun to see my legwarmers skating past me on the ice!

On the book front, I continue to read as much as I can.  In the fiction department, I have finally gone back to a book I had bought ages ago.  I love Sarah Addison Allen when I am in the mood for her.  Her books are whimsical and sweet, and are stories in which dreams come true.  There is a hint of magic in them but they are not fantasy.  I love her when she is on - she makes me look a little bit differently at the world around me.  As I am reading "The Girl Who Chased the Moon", I desperately want to make cake!

In terms of non-fiction, I have two books on the go - Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans and Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott.  Both books are by authors who I find so easy to connect with but also who have fought some pain and some questions about faith and church that make me feel as if I am not the only one who struggles sometimes.  They are also books that allow me to graze - I read a bit here, a bit there and the chapters aren't too long so I can read a tiny bit at bedtime and still feel like my faith muscles have gotten a bit of a stretch.  That is exactly what I need right now.

I can't wait to see what you are reading and stitching!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Yarn Along

I don't get my blog written anywhere near as often as I would like but at least I have been able to keep up with my Yarn Along posts of late.  I love the Yarn Along, hosted by Ginny over at Small Things.  I love to read and I love to knit and I love to get new ideas!

I haven't had much time but I have been able to get a tiny bit done.  I finished the other books I was reading (if you haven't read Sarah Bessey's Out of Sorts, it's definitely worth it) and so I picked up again on a couple of books that I have been meaning to get to.  Simply Tuesday, by Emily Freeman, is a book from a theme of my reading that comes up every so often - trying to get out from under the frenzied pace of my life.  I haven't gotten very far but I am finding that I am enjoying this book so far.  In terms of fiction, I had a bit of trouble getting into Go Set a Watchman, which I have been meaning to read forever but that has definitely changed, as proven by the bags under my eyes at work today.  I can't put it down.  There is just something about Harper Lee's writing that speaks to me and I love her characters.

In terms of knitting, I'm working on several things, as well.  I finished the other pair of legwarmers and they ended up being too small, as I suspected (it helps to read the carefully enough to know the sizing BEFORE you have knit half of the project).  Now, I have started the larger size of these Gap-inspired Leg Warmers and I'm really enjoying knitting these.  The pattern is easy, the cables look lovely and it's simple enough that I don't have to look at the pattern now.  I also have a baby blanket project that I'd like to get going (although I know it's probably a lofty goal) that I have started.  I'll share more later but there have been several babies born at church lately and I'd love to give each a blanket.

I can't wait to see what everyone else is working on!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Yarn Along

Welcome to another Yarn Along post.  For anyone who doesn't know, the Yarn Along is hosted by Ginny over at Small Things.  It gives us a chance to share what we are stitching and what we are reading.  My only problem with it is that my list of patterns I want to make is getting very long and my goodreads want-to-read list is endless!  It's so much fun.

This week, I've been frantically trying to knit and to read.  Once a month, my Wednesday evening moms prayer/reading group meets on a Saturday to craft.  It's an eclectic group (the best way to describe us in so many ways - we couldn't be more different) but we also manage to have found this sense of community that I have rarely experienced in my life (but that's another post).  I got a full afternoon to knit on Pk's second pair of legwarmers.  They seemed ... short, so I extended them.  I gave the pattern a closer look and I discovered my mistake - they were a pattern to make a toddler pair (with a larger size pattern down below).  I think they have enough stretch that they will work so I decided to keep going (I have a very low tolerance for frogging and I couldn't stand the idea of starting from scratch).  If they don't work, they can go to a friend's little girl.  Over the weekend, I got one done and another half way there.  I'm also working on a dishcloth (since I've been so inspired around here!)

In terms of reading, I have finally moved onto two new books.  My friend lent my Sarah Bessey's new book, Out of Sorts.  I.LOVE.THIS.BOOK!!!!!  I liked Jesus Feminist but it didn't do it for me the way her blog has over the years.  This book, on the other hand, it fantastic.  I'd love to read it all in one sitting but I don't want to miss the chance to reflect on each chapter before I move on.  I definitely need to buy this book for my collection!

I also had someone lend me Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.  I loved To Kill a Mockingbird and I have resisted reading this because I couldn't imagine loving it as much as her other book.  Someone handed this to me and said I had to read it and I've been trying to, slowly.  I'm not very far in (I keep falling asleep) but I'm not sure whether that's a statement about the book or about my life, of late.  I'll let you know.

I can't wait to see what everyone else is reading and knitting!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday, Plan B

I had been looking forward, all week, to this weekend.  I love Easter weekend.  I love the services.  I love the family traditions.  I love the chance to be focused on what means most to me.  We were especially excited because I have been part of a women's prayer study since September and these women have become so special to me.  They go to a different church and it happened that our two churches were worshipping jointly for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  It may sound silly but all of us being together with our families meant so much to me.  I had been rehearsing with the Worship team and was singing on Good Friday morning and singing songs I love and we had get togethers with Dh's family set for the weekend as well.  It sounded like exactly the kind of weekend I was hoping for.  I had so many plans.

Then, the weather hit.

Thursday night's service was cancelled due to freezing rain.  That was disappointing but at least we would be able to see everyone this morning.

Then, Dh's family cancelled.  That was o.k.  I had known the weekend was going to be crazy-busy and we have plans in the next several weeks.  This would just mean more time for naps and reading.

Then, the power very dramatically went out this morning at 5 a.m.  (Having the power fully go off and fully come on again repeatedly for about 10 minutes before going off fully is an alarming experience!)  That was when I started to feel really frustrated.  Didn't Mother Nature realise this weekend was Easter?  Come on...

Then, this morning's service was cancelled.  Seriously?  Good Friday with no service?  What photos would I have for the memory wall this year?  What would make this special for the kids?  I had all of these ideas for what Easter should be and life was not cooperating.   You would think that after how many years of things not going according to plan, I would be able to roll with it but I'm still terrible at it.

I took about an hour or so of feeling really let down and then, I decided it was time to get over it.  Given what we are honouring, do I truly have ANY right to complain?  How ridiculous.  I am so very lucky, I have no right to complain, even if it wasn't the way I wanted things to be.  I feel so shallow even writing this because I was being such a baby but truly, Easter means so much to me.  While I am trying to be more grown up, I was just so sad.

Anyway, I decided that it was time to make new memories this year and to turn this into the Easter plan B that ended up being one of our best.  I started by trying to take some photos to capture other memories.

 There was my wonderful Dh, who remembered that he had bought a little propane burner to make me my tea in just this kind of situation.  Never has a cup of tea tasted so good.
 There was the family effort at bailing the sump pump.  If you don't live somewhere that you need one, consider yourself lucky.  This area is damp and if you don't have a sump pump, in the spring, you will have a basement filled with water if you aren't careful.  We had to hand bail ours every 40 minutes and that involved taking 10 - 15 buckets of water to the bathroom to pour into the tub.  We had some giggles as we managed to spill water on our feet.

Then, there was the skating rink outside.  It was actually very pretty if you didn't feel the need to go anywhere.  We had to run out to the grocery store (we have other friends who aren't able to see family, either, so we are doing an "Orphans dinner" on Sunday and I had to get ingredients for our Jello eggs - yes, Jello eggs, you can laugh but my family has always had this weird attachment to Jello treats at holidays) and we discovered a skating rink outside.  We spent about 30 minutes chipping ice to avoid killing ourselves and the kids discovered the joys of slipping and sliding.  The neighbour kids from over the road saw us having fun and decided to join us.  It was totally unplanned and totally memorable.

 Little Man's means to help chip away the ice.

 Finally, just before bedtime, the sun came out and the evening light shining through the ice on the trees was much prettier than you can tell from this photo


It wasn't a day of worship in the way that we had planned but after a day of listening to Taize, Hillsong and Chris Tomlin (yes, we are eclectic in our tastes!), reading and cuddling at home and having fun in the magical world outside, I feel like at least I was present and not taking things for granted.  I can't say that it was the most worshipful day in the way I had planned but I was reminded, yet again, of how lucky I am.

Oh and hey, I have some photos that will immediately remind us of a special year...