Saturday, July 30, 2016

Beautiful Moments 2



I've been trying very hard this week for look for those lovely moments and unlike some weeks, this week has been very easy.  P.K. was asked to help out at the barn where she rides and so she was happily dirty, with hay in her hair and a layer of dust all over her and the smell of horses all week.  She loves nothing more than being around the horses and at 8, almost 9, she was so proud to be able to work.  It also gave me a chance for some time with Little Man and that was wonderful, too.  We don't get that anywhere near as often as I would like and it was such fun.

This was truly the week of the park.  Sunday, as the wrap up to a very busy week of VBS, instead of our normal service, we had brunch and then, we were invited to do a prayer walk around town - to spread out in small groups and to pray at various sites to cover the town in prayer.  To someone who isn't a Christian or who hasn't done it before, it is oddly powerful to stand in the schoolyard at your child's school and to pray a blessing over all of the children who will attend.  To make it more meaningful for the kids, we decided to visit several parks (although I only took a few photos).  Our deal was that we would pray over the park together and then, the kids were allowed a short play.  It was lovely and it also reminded me (and the kids) of some of the things that we would like do before the end of the summer while we still have the time. While our town is small, it provides us with many wonderful opportunities, especially for the kids.

Park 1

 Park 2, which is also the schoolyard


While I hadn't actually planned it this way, while P.K. was at the barn, Little Man and I did a tour of wading pools and splashpads.  On Monday, we went down to the city and visited my parents.  There is a wading pool at the end of their street and, I think, because splashpads are the "in" thing now (no need for lifeguards or chemicals), to go to a wading pool is a special treat.  Visiting these pools is so nostalgic for me because they are the same pools I enjoyed when I was a child.  Little Man loved every second.  On Wednesday, we visited the splashpad by the school at which I teach (and I was able to see a few special students, which made me very happy), on Thursday, we met up with a few former colleagues, who are also good friends, at another splashpad/park and on Friday, we met up with one of his friends from school and his mom (who, it turns out, is quite a kindred spirit - what a bonus).  



On the walk back from the splashpad on Friday, we came home through my favourite place in our town, the trail that ends up at a park.  It's such a lovely walk - years ago, when I used to walk at 5 a.m. with Chelsea, my special dog, that was the home of my fox family and even before that, I used to visit the creek after work when I needed to decompress.  I'm not a believer in fairies but for me, if there is an enchanted place in town, this would be it.  Just the sound of the water lowers my stress level.  The kidlets love it, too, and it reminded Little Man of a time when we had made paper boats and tried to float them on the creek a couple of years ago.  He was insistent that we needed to do that again and we agreed that we would wait for Saturday so that P.K. could come along.  



It was another opportunity for a "down memory lane."  There are two paths and the kids have always loved "the mountain path" and it was tradition for us to sing, "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" each time we went up the hill.  I was a bit surprised when Little Man asked us to sing again and instead of whining about it being "baby-ish", P.K. thought it was a brilliant idea.  That, for me, will always be such a treasured memory!

 

The wildflowers were out in full bloom, which explains my allergies but also made for a lovely walk.

 




I may be slightly insane but of late, I have been trying very hard to avoid saying no unless there is a real need.  I have always been worried about the kids falling into the water but this time, I agreed that, if they wore their Crocs, they could actually go into the creek to float their boats.  I think this will rank high on their list of fun summer memories.  I can't express how much fun they had and I couldn't help but think that these kinds of experiences are what childhood is truly about.



The other magical part of this week actually did involve faires, not just a sense of enchantment.  My mother has bought a couple of fairy houses for her garden.  P.K. had mentioned that she "didn't believe in magic anymore" and for my mom, who values imagination so much, this made her sad.  Mom has made it her mission to recapture some of that love of childhood magic and I was a bit surprised to see that it had taken more than I had thought.  A small store in town that sells an odd assortment of gift things is closing (under sad circumstances) and was having a liquidation sale and I decided that we would wander up.  The kids some some garden fairy figures and given that they were less than $5 each, I broken down and bought a few.  Before we knew it, the kids were spending almost 3 hours designing a fairy garden out back and then, we ended up driving to the dollar store to buy wooden houses for the kids to paint for their fairies.  I love watching my children when they have a project and it made my mom so happy to see what the kids were up to.  I have a feeling that this love of fairies has taken and may define our play for a while.  I am hoping to track down some good fairy stories for us to read in the next few weeks to build some more fun memories.


















Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Yarn Along


Welcome to my Yarn Along post, linking up with Ginny over at Small Things.  I love her weekly Yarn Along, in which people write about their knitting and their reading, two of life's nicest things!  I haven't done a post in a while but I certainly have been trying to find time for my knitting and my reading!




As always, I have several books going at once.  The summer is even worse!  My husband keeps telling people that if we are killed, it will be my stack of books falling over on us.  He's probably right.  There just aren't enough hours in the day for books!

As I have mentioned before, one of my favourite online book clubs is the Red Couch club over at She Loves.  I have discovered so many wonderful books over there.  This month's book is I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, the well known girl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban as retribution for her advocacy for schooling for girls.  I was a bit hesitant about this book because I often find that these kinds of memoirs aren't exactly fine examples of good writing.  This one has surprised me pleasantly.  It's not the best book I have ever read but it has held my attention.  More than even Malala, I am struck by her father's courage and believe in the rights of his daughter and other girls.

I'm also reading Things Hidden, Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr.  I kept seeing mentions of his book Falling Upwards and I decided that I would give him a try.  I don't exactly find his writing light and it is very helpful to have some background in psychology and Jung but I am finding that there are wonderful ideas about how to see scripture and to get the most from reading and rereading.

Finally, I have decided to go back and revisit some old favourites.  I have been finding the world very angry and tense and it makes me want to retreat back into a gentler and simpler time (which probably didn't really exist but I love the fantasy).  Miss Read has written two long series about village life in England - the Thrush Green series and the Fairacre series.  They are wonderful visits with recurring characters that have a lot in common with the people around us in daily life.  The problems are easy to understand and there is always hope.  There is also a focus on things like the changing seasons and the routines and cycles of life - just what I am needing right now.   Right now, I am 2/3rds of the way through Storm in the Village and it is exactly what I needed.


Before I show you my knitting, I couldn't resist the chance to show off my lovely new knitting bag.  As a teacher, I often get gifts that have a connection to the home culture of my students.  This lovely bag is from Pakistan and I love using it.  I love anything embroidered and the student who gave this to me was a lovely, sweet girl who blossomed over the last two years.  It's nice to keep something I love in something with such nice connections.


I am surprised at how much I love the colour of this yarn.  I'm not generally a big fan of yellow but the last time I visited my favourite LYS, there was a sale and there wasn't much left.  This lovely, soft yarn was one of the few colours left with enough to actually make something significant.  The sunshine-y colour and the softness of the yarn is such a pleasure to knit.  The pattern is called the Kinsley Chunky scarf and it's knitting up so quickly!  I don't work in bulky much so this is fun.  It will definitely need good blocking, though, to really get a true appreciation of it's pattern and shape.


Finally, in the many hours sitting at the soccer pitch with my kidlets, it's nice to have something on the needles that requires almost not thought.  I love these open star dishcloths and I want to build a stockpile for gift giving and for home use.  The cottons come in such lovely colours!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Beautiful Moments, Day 1


It was a stressful year for girlie at school for a number of reasons and she is entering into a time, I think, when she is starting to move away and become her own, more independent person.  While she still loves her family, she is choosing to spend more time on her own and at times, I feel like we are talking across each other rather than really meeting.  Some of that is certainly my fault - I have a bad habit of being too driven towards what is coming next and missing the now.  I need to learn more ways to listen and to be present for her because I know that this time is fleeting and I will soon be wishing for it back.

Today, when she got home from the riding camp at which she was assisting, I asked if she would like to join me at the table to sit and colour.  I have a colouring book (I never thought I would enjoy this but a good friend got me to try it and I've been surprised at how much I enjoy it) and the last time I was at my favourite Christian bookstore, I saw one for girls and I bought it for girlie.  She loves it but keeps forgetting that she has it.  We ended up sitting at the table and working together, chatting about her day, for at least half an hour and it was so peaceful.  She found a verse that she really liked and decided, herself, to write it on the board in our kitchen that we use to record verses that we are memorizing or that seem especially relevant to us all. 

"Two people are better than one for they can help each other succeed."  Ecclesiastes 4:9. 

It seemed very fitting for a lovely moment.


Tired...


It's summer holidays.  I've been off from work for almost a month now and there have been many wonderful and fun moments.  I've so enjoyed being with my kids, trying to dig out of the clutter at home and finding time to read and knit.  I love summer and the loose routines and the sound of the crickets and the hum of the a/c.  While it's all been lovely, I've had this exhaustion that I just can't seem to shake.

I've written here before about my mixed feeling about social media - about how much I hate the fact that it's a venue for comparisons, for judgement and for hostility.  I keep telling myself I should just turn it off but, when you are a fringe-dweller like me, sometimes it takes the various online options to help you to feel that you are not truly alone and that you DO actually belong to a tribe, rare and odd though it may be.  I don't want to give it up for that.  It's also, though, been the conduit for helping me to understand just how tired I actually am.

Why am I so tired?  I'm tired of people being mean.  There seems to be so much of that these days.  People who think that they should vent their anger on whoever is close, whoever is weak, whoever is least in the position to fight back.  I see in on the roads when bullies cut people off.  I see it at the soccer field when parents are putting way too much pressure on their kids.  I see it in stores when people feel that they have the right to abuse the people who are serving them.  I see it most of all in the horrendous speeches and sound bites coming from the U.S. election.  Where did the compassion go?  Where did the respect for others go?  Where did all this bigotry and racism come from?  Where did our expectations go for what we can accept from our powerful and our public?  

Why else am I tired?  I'm tired of certainty.  I definitely don't mean my own.  I find that so often, I feel so unsure and I see that there are so many elements to a situation.  On the other hand, there are so many people out there who are so sure - so sure that racism DOESN'T exist, so sure that all Muslims are dangerous and planning to implement Sharia on all of us, so sure that if we take care of those who are poorer than we are, that the world will fall apart, we will be murdered in our streets and our economies will collapse.  These are the people that are so sure that God is blessing them because of their own specialness or brand of faith or practice of faith, the people who are so sure that they are entitled and everyone with less is suffering from their own laziness or weakness of character in some form or other.  These are the people who want to shout the rest of us down and who believe that our compassion is just a manifestation of our weakness and our naivety.  We need to be "tougher" and to stop listening to the whiners and to buy our guns and build our fences and save our money.  How is it that I have doubt when I am trying to follow Jesus and to read His words and to live his commands and yet, they claim piety and righteousness and yet don't seem to be reading the same book that I am?  How is it that these people are so sure as to what Jesus wanted in terms of marriage when He himself never actually said anything about homosexuality?  How is that they seem to ignore the friction between judging and loving and not stepping forward to cast the first stone?  It makes me tired.

What else makes me tired?  Rudeness.  How is it that so many people post things about the good old days when kids got spanked and we treated our elders with respect and yet, these are the same people who push forward in line, boast and boast about anything and everything and feel that they have the right to slander, name call and abuse?  What happened to the days when, if we didn't have something nice to say, we didn't say anything?  Why is it that I am rude if I share my truth and yet I should listen to your truth without comment, regardless how offensive it may be?

What else is making me tired?  Deciding when to battle and when to be silent.  I am exhausted from feeling as if I am always torn - do I just let it go and take the easy path when I see that racist comment, hear that homophobic joke or see memes praising building walls, starving the hungry and depriving shelter and safety to the homeless?  I don't want to be the one who is always the person who is seen as opinionated, the person who is always taking us away from the joke to the grim reality or the person who is pointing out that the Emperor is naked.  I'm exhausted from fighting the fight and putting myself out there.  I'm also aware, though, that my call from God and my love of justice and mercy won't allow me to sit idly by and watch what could be another trip down the road of Germany in the 1930's.  I don't want to be the one who didn't speak up and then had nobody left to speak for me.

For my introverted heart, this all makes me want to crawl into my home and create a safe haven and not come out. Quite a few years ago, I went to some counseling and my therapist said to me once, "You know that you can't keep a bubble around your children and keep them always safe from any trouble?  All you can do is carry them through the trouble and give them that sense of safety that convinces them that they can do it."  She was right, of course, but I think I want to do the same for myself.  I want to bubble wrap myself and not engage with anything or anyone that is going to make me more tired. 

I can't though, so I have decided that for the next month or so, while I won't entirely withdraw, I am going to make more of an effort to create peace in my world.  It may be peace for others but mostly, I want it to be peace in my own house and my own heart.  I am going to try to look for positive and see how many different ways and places I can find it and, if I'm not too tired, I'll share it here.  It's nice to record the good and with all of the poison on the net, it would be nice to have some beauty, too, even if I am the only one who sees it.

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.