Saturday, April 27, 2013

Little Joys

I think that the nicest gifts are the ones that are totally unexpected, especially when they are so thoughtful and really reflect someone's knowledge of me.  I got two of those this week.

The first one was from someone at work.  Last week, she had gone to a "tea" fundraiser and she needed a fancy hat.  Apparently, the secretaries at work were discussing it and immediately decided that I would be the perfect person to ask.  I do have rather a hat fetish and the more historical, the better.  I took her in two of my favourites and she wore one to her tea.  Totally unexpectedly, she brought me in three vintage paper dollhouses that she had for her daughter that she thought Pk might like.  I loved paper dolls as a child (that was something that my grandmother and I shared) and Pk is just like me, she loves dress up and making up stories.  I was so touched and already, Pk and I have had fun with them.  One is from "The Secret Garden", which happens to be a book that I love that I want to read to Pk (and I'm dying to get the movie from the 90's on DVD - it was marvellous).

My other lovely treat was this rose perfume, which was totally unexpected.  When I was a child, my mother had a friend from work who I adored.  She was Irish, elegant and so very kind.  She was also wealthy in a way that I had never seen.  She was soft and sweet and exotic to a poor kid from the east end.  I will always remember a Christmas open house to which we were invited.  I don't remember her house clearly but I do remember the multiple fireplaces burning, elegant dishes of nuts in the their shells and the lovely smell.  I always associated her with the smell of roses.

She moved far away and we lost contact.  She has recently moved back to the city and she and mom have reconnected.  Mom mentioned to her that I remembered her wearing the rose perfume and that I have always loved roses since.  Well, last week, this was sent to me from her.  It's lovely and reminds me exactly of how she smelled.  I will treasure it because of the giver.

A last little joy?  Pk at her desk.  She spent house here this morning playing with her paper ponies.  I have always loved my desk and have spent many hours there.  I'm so glad that Pk feels the same way!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rest - Stressed-Less Living Blog Hop

I am continuing to participate in the Stressed-Less Living study over at Melissa Taylor Online.  Check it out here!

Rest. In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. ~ Isaiah 30:15b (NIV)

 I don't think I can say enough about this weeks' text.  It speaks to me on so many levels.

First of all, I am tired.  Bone weary.  There are more days than I can count that I fall into bed, try to read and I wake up in the morning with my book on the floor beside me and I can't remember where I stopped reading.  I come home from work and I'm not sure how I am going to face "being mom" for the next several hours and my patience is at a low ebb.  I run and run and run and don't seem to get anywhere but weary and further behind.  I read a text like this and I am overwhelmed with a sense of relief.  It's possible not to feel this way.  There IS a way to live differently.  God has so much to offer me and rest is the gift I feel as if I need the most.

Repentance - when I first read this text at the beginning of the week, this word didn't leap out at me as much as it did as the week went on.  My breakthrough came during my evening prayers on Tuesday night, I think it was.  You know how there are friends who are people you like but don't really feel as if you connect with and then there are what I think of as "kindred spirits"?  I am reasonably introverted and so I don't generally spend much time in the "friend" catagory, I'd much rather expend my people energy with those kindred spirits who I feel really know and get me.  I've been forced to work on this over the past year, as in our circle, there is someone who I find I don't connect with and at times, it has been somewhat painful.  She makes me feel very insecure and seems to trigger everything that can make me feel badly about myself.  It's not deliberate on her part, she is not in any way a bad person, she and I, while on the surface it looks like we have a lot in common, see the word in a very different way and our values often clash (especially in the honesty vs. kindness department, she is someone who values honesty and I am someone of the "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it" ilk).  I often come away from our conversations and even email exchanges feeling a bit diminished and then, also, feeling like I haven't treated her as kindly as I should because of the issues in me that she has triggered.  It sounds small but for a brooder like me, it really weighs me down.

So, back to my revelation.  I do evening prayers every night and as I did my prayers, I came to it feeling rather upset - I was feeling tension and hostility and feeling really guilty that I might have contributed to it.  As I prayed, I asked God to forgive my selfishness and the fact that I was allowing my own insecurities to interfere with how I related to this person.  I had not been the warm and supportive friend that I feel called to be.  All of a sudden, it dawned on me (I can't explain it, my logical mind knows about forgiveness but my human heart often doesn't accept this great gift).  It was over.  I had given it to God, tomorrow was a new day and it was over.  I was forgiven.  I felt so relieved and lightened and unburdened.  And, of course, a feeling of peace - that rest I crave.  At that point, I truly understood that amazing way that repentance and rest are connected.

I don't know whether it is this study or whether it is something else but I have been feeling more centred this week.  I am trying to do what needs doing and to release the things I can't control.  One thing I can control is the amount of sleep I get and I have been working at getting to bed earlier, which certainly helps.  I can't wait for next week and the next chapter of this book.  I'm looking forward to reading what everyone else has to share!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Little Joys

My little joy for today?  Having the time to sit here and write!  It's been a whirlwind for the last week or so.   Nothing horrifically awful, just little things that just keep seeming to pile up and make me feel as if I am just ahead of drowning.  If I don't get a few little, quiet moments, that's when I sink completely and thankfully, there have been a few such quiet moments today.
I hope you have been able to enjoy a few quiet moments to catch your breath today and to look around and to see all that you have!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Little Joys

I love my crocuses (croci?).  They seem to come out of nowhere - on Sunday, I looked for them and there was no sign of them and then today, there was this riot of purple.  For me, this is the true sign of spring.

Two other joys today - 1.  that my children are healthy and thriving.  I did J.K. screenings today and there was a child that came in who was very obviously severely autistic and the mother didn't seem to have a clear idea that something was wrong.  Autism is such a horrible condition, especially in its severest forms and the road for that family, as they come to terms with the struggles that their child will face, will be a tough one.

2.  That I have everyone in my family in one piece.  My heart goes out to all impacted by the tragedy in Boston.  It just seems so wrong to have people who have no connection to whatever the issue is hurt (which, I guess, is no different than all of the innocent people caught in conflicts around the world - what a reminder that we need to work harder to protect the weak and to prevent armed conflicts in the world).  So many people are suffering in so many ways.  It makes me so sad.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Little Joys

When I was very young, my family had a wonderful next-door neighbour who I called "Auntie Marion."  She was truly an amazing woman.  She was raising three children on her own after her husband had left her.  She had chronic health problems and couldn't work outside the home but she babysat me off and on while my mom was at school/work and dad was working and she took in borders into her house.  I adored her.

One thing that I look back on with Auntie Marion is the absolutely amazing way that she created bounty with nothing.  Every Christmas, she would bake cookies and give them to everyone.  These weren't cookies, these were COOKIES!  She had a garden and she canned and preserved and everything just melted in your mouth.  To this day, I can't resist buying certain kinds of cookie tins at yard sales because they remind me of her tins that she would use to give us those cookies.  Each one was a mouth full of her love.

I had a friend deliver a dinner for me yesterday since she knew I was going to have a hard week.  The food was yummy but to me, the container was even yummier.  Vintage casseroles like this one remind me so much of Auntie Marion and her love.  It's a symbol for me of taking care of each other, of giving what we have selflessly and of connection.  I'm sappy, I know, but just looking at this on the counter makes me feel just that little bit safer in the world.

And on a much shallower note...

1.  The family pedicure last night - even Lb had to be a part - he chose the pink glitter polish for HIS nails

 2.  Running the dogs.  I adore the fact that we have natural spaces like this within 5 minutes of home.  I'm also grateful that I have dogs who force me to get out, even when I don't really want to.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Little Joys

The last few days have been hard for me.  I think I have a case of the blues that may be pushing its way into some full-on depression but I'm hoping that a few sunny days will help this to pass.  I have had a lot of little stresses in the last few days and sometimes, I deal with it really well but other times, not so much.  It's been a bit of a struggle to keep things going.  That being said, even in the midst of the crap, there have been some wonderful little joys.

The best today?  After church, I ran to the skating arena.  Several of my students were skating in a production but on by the local skating club and I promised I would go to watch.  Pk was thrilled because she loves all things Disney and there was a Disney theme to the show.  We got there to a huge crowd and it was totally overwhelming and out of the blue, I see this familiar face - a dear friend from work who is off on a leave.  Our daughters had a blast with the skating and we just talked and talked, decompressing the stresses we are both facing right now.  I can't tell you how much I needed that.  I really am so lucky to be surrounded by the wonderful people I have in my life.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Teachings our Sons

Over the last few weeks, the Canadian media has been full of stories of the very tragic story of Rehteah Parsons and I have been hit with this overwhelming sadness.  Of course, I feel horrible for this family and for the loss of a precious life.  I also feel so sad, however, that we have lost our way so badly in the way that we are raising our children.  How could not one but an entire group of boys so degrade a classmate and commit rape and even worse, film it and publicly share the footage of this horrible event?  I even heard interviews with other students from the school saying that "the boys are having a hard time," heavy with the implication that the boys might be misunderstood or that this was just an adolescent mistake.  It makes me feel so sick that we could be raising children so lacking in empathy and so able to disconnect when they watch the horrid and the cruel.  I can't even being to contemplate that this poor girl was subjected to bullying afterwards AND that the authorities did not act to protect her.  It speaks to me about the fact that we NEED to raise our children in a different way - our girls need to learn to value themselves, to protect themselves and not to put themselves in harm's way (which is in NO way a blaming of this girl, nothing justifies this but I would hope that I could teach my daughter that being in a large group of drunks without any sober supervision is an unnecessary risk).  Especially, though, we need to learn to parent our boys differently - to teach them compassion, empathy, courage to stand against what is wrong and wisdom.

I just thought I would share a link to this post of Ann Voskamp's, which actually helped me to feel like there is hope for raising our sons differently.

Little Joys

All day Wednesday, the weather forecast was predicting impending doom and Thursday, schools buses were cancelled and there was much hype.  As so often happens, the storm did not live up to its billing.  We had a bit of wet snow and that was it.

Friday morning was another story.  We woke up to an icy world - the trees were covered (and I was not able to get a lovely photo of it) and my dogs skated across the deck.  There were two joys - one the beauty of the morning and the other, making it to work in one piece, despite the fact that nothing was cancelled (probably out of embarrassment for the the day before).  So many people are so discouraged by the fact that spring isn't here yet but not me - I suppose I am lucky in that I don't mind the cold as long as the days are lighter and longer and we are definitely getting that.

I didn't get any photos but another joy is that my mother is here.  She took us out for a lovely dinner last night and she treated each child to something from the store.  I feel so lucky that my children have this time with their grandparents.  I only got to know two of mine and even then, they had both passed on by the time I was 12 and my children have a much better chance of plenty of time with their grandparents.  What a gift!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Stressed Less and Blessed!

I love online studies since life is so busy and I can't seem to make it to one of the studies at our church.  A friend suggested that I join the "Greater" study that happened back in January hosted over at Proverbs 31 ministries and I decided to give that one a try.  I liked it and Stressed-Less Living is going to be my third in this series.  It couldn't apply to me more.

I decided to jump ahead and read chapter one on Sunday night.  What a great move.  I read the chapter and really was hit with the message that I need to stop spending so much time worrying so much and being stressed by things that are beyond my control (a specialty of mine).  I came to work Monday morning (for anyone who haven't been around here much, I'm an elementary teacher and the primary lead teacher, which means lots of meetings and since it's a large school, it's a bit like trying to herd cats.  Given the current labour-situation in schools here in Ontario, you might be starting to understand why I am stressed).  My intentions were so good and yet, by lunchtime, I felt sick to my stomach from all the tension and I could feel the muscles in my neck and shoulders tightening up from my clenching, trying to keep up with all that I felt that I had to do.   Since then, I have worried about the freezing rain and driving, my son's not sleeping, our finances, a situation with a friend and at church, my dog... the list goes on and on.  I know that I am taking years off my life with this worry and it makes me unhappy.  I don't want to live like this and something needs to change.

It's funny, there are people who say that we should just "stop worrying."  It will all be fine.  If we have enough faith, life will get easier.  Then, there are the people who imply that I am worrying about nothing.  While I may worry too much, it is not nothing.  I am not someone who blows things out of proportion (unless it's a health thing, and then I freely admit, I'm a nutcase).  I have an insanely busy life - two young children, pets, an intense job, acting as children's worship coordinator at our church, trying to be a good wife and friend, commuting (although not as far as I did), trying to include acts of service in my life... it goes on and on.  I wouldn't change it in terms of the fact that the things that I have the option to drop are often the things that give me the most pleasure and I don't want to sacrifice that.  Reading this chapter really helped me to see that I need to 1.  really focus on what I can control and 2.  put faith in God that He is good and that He can handle the rest.  It sounds so simple for the reality is so hard (at least for me).  I want to ENJOY my life and not take years off myself with worry and the physical symptoms of a life of stress.

Luckily for me, I read Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts a couple of years ago and I have strongly embraced the "blessed" approach to life.  I am trying to look for all of the little blessings that come my way every day and I do find that helps me A LOT.  I'm looking forward to seeing how this book takes me that next step and helps me to manage my stress and to clearly see and be able to enjoy all of my daily blessings!  I'm looking forward to reading the thoughts of everyone else!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Little Joys

Through the winter, Pk took the Pre-Canskate programme and loved it.  She adored it so much that when we got the application for the spring session, we decided to keep going.  Pk was so excited, that is, until we got there tonight and were on a different ice pad and she didn't see her favourite teacher.  I could see that she was becoming rather scared.

Then, we heard her name being called.  It was her favourite friend from the last session.  They ran to hug and just talked and talked.  Once they got on the ice, they stuck together the entire time, several times getting separated from the rest of the group, since they were more focused on each other than on the instructor.

It really makes me happy when I see Pk getting such pleasure from friends.  It makes me think of all of the joy I have gotten from the special people in my life and I love the fact that, at least up until now, she seems to have an ease with people and a capacity for friendship that could really enrich her life.  I hear so many stories of "mean girl" situations - it's so nice to see the wonderful side of girls together.

And Lb?  He took a hockey stick with him in the car and found at puck when we arrived.  Life was good for him, too!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Little Joys

Today, we had a mystery reader in my class.  I love this programme!  Several times each year, I send a letter home inviting family members to come in a read a favourite book to the class.  I don't tell the students who is coming and usually, the family member doesn't tell them, either, so it's a complete surprise.  The kids adore it.  I have to say, it's a treat for me, too.  It often lets me see the children in a new way, through the eyes of a family member.  I always allow the person to bring in a favourite book to read and I love seeing what different people choose.  My students are very lucky and have some wonderful people who care about them so much.  I also have to admit, it must go back to childhood but I LOVE having a book read to me, too, and sitting and listening to a grandma read, takes me right back to being five and cuddled in someone's lap and feeling so relaxed and safe.  It's a truly lovely feeling.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Little Joys

No pictures today.  It was a crazy day at work with lots of unexpected demands (that put my stress level through the ceiling - so much for my intention to follow the idea in the first chapter of Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles from the Proverbs 31 study - not the book's problem, it's mine!) and by the end of the day, I was feeling very, very tense.  My joys?  Coming home.  A quiet rain that made the house feel cozy.  Dh picking up naan and muttar paneer to go with the butter chicken we were having for dinner.
Sometimes, it's just nice to be home and to slow down the pace.

Little Joys

One of my favourite dreams every year is that of an abundant garden.  I love flowers and I dream of an English garden - flowers everywhere and all wonderful for cutting so that I can always have some in the house.  That would be fine if I had decent sun in a southern exposure anywhere on our property but given that I am struggling with either east or west exposure and trees on the property (which makes it pretty!), my options are limited.  That being said, I still love doing what I can.

This year, my dream is to do two things - 1. a container herb garden (and I may take a bit of space out back where my dogs go, which does get more sun) and 2. a container flower garden on our south deck (which I'd like to turn into a little oasis off our bedroom).  Who knows whether I will actually accomplish it but the dreams are wonderful and it's fun getting the kids involved in planting the seeds.  Today was the day.

We planted chives, basil, kale, arugula, nasturtiums, four o'clocks, sweet peas, morning glories and parsley.  Here's hoping that they grow.  It is fun trying, anyway.  As you can see, we also got some pansies (which I love), which were very root bound so we got them transplanted.

Another pleasure?  A new recipe for stewing beef that actually tastes great!  Normally, we don't even use it for stew since neither dh or I like it but it comes as part of our farm share.  I have see searching and finally found something that everyone liked (and Pk asked to have it again!)  Here's the recipe (I don't use packaged soup, in Healthy Meals for Less, there is a terrific recipe for homemade onion soup powder that is all natural and I control the salt but you would never know the difference in recipes).  It simmered so when we came in from a cold walk with the dogs, the house smelled amazing!  What a treat.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Little Joys

There are days with our pets that I really think I am crazy.  As I am vacuuming up the tumbleweeds of hair, cleaning up pet vomit or dealing with a dog who id demanding to go out right as I am dealing with a terrible two tantrum, I ponder whether this is just insanity that I think that this is something that I want.  Then, there are days like today when I get to see just how much they enrich our lives and the hours with the vacuum seem worth it.

Last week, we were at our local Christian bookstore (which is my home-away-from-home, I think) and Pk wanted me to buy her something.  Funds were low and so I said no.  Normally, I wouldn't think anything of it but we were getting something for Lb, so I came up with the suggestion that after I got paid on Friday, Pk and I would have a mommy-daughter outing and we would go to the bookstore and her favourite coffee place.

Saturday arrived and we went and watched the amazingly pretentious people torturing the servers with their orders and Pk enjoyed an incredibly overpriced water and rice krispie square and then we headed off to the bookstore.  She wanted to browse but before we got to the books, she wanted to look at the gift section.  Once we arrived at the Willow Tree figurings, I knew I had lost her.  She has her mom's sentimental streak and she loves any figurine that reminders her of her and anyone she loves.  She wanted me to tell her the story of each figure and then, we came to the one of the girl and her cat.  We have a cat, Sadie, who joined us when Pk was 18 months old because Pk loved the cat at her sitter's so much.  Sadie is an aloof but lovely cat but oddly enough, she ADORES Pk.  She sleeps with her every night, spends much of her time in Pk's room and allows herself to be constantly man-handled without biting (and the rest of us would be chomped for sure).  Pk had to have the girl and the cat and she was willing to forego books and even movies for the figurine.  Coming home, all she could talk about what how much the figuring reminded her of our Sadie and how much she loves her cat.

I love the cat, I truly do, but at the end of the day, it's the dogs who bring me the greatest joy.  Chelsea is now almost 12 and I am already trying to prepare myself emotionally for the fact that she won't always be with us.  Just look at Lucie, here below, running with the stick in the field on our walk this afternoon.  Is there anything that captures the joy of life more that a Brittany Spaniel flying through the air?

Definitely, our pets and their love are joys that enrich my life every single day, pet hair and vomit or not!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Little Joys

I don't know whether other families have this but for us, that first hour or so after school before dinner is often horrible.   The kids are cranky, the adults are tired from the day and want a bit of quiet and it feels like there is so much to be done.  It would be so easy to stick the kids in front of the t.v. to get a few minutes of peace.  I'm trying very hard to keep the t.v. off as much as possible and that leaves an hour of unfilled time.

Yesterday was marvellous.  I had ordered this pattern blocks kit from Scholastic (the joys of points from Scholastic for doing book orders!) and I decided to get it out to see what everyone thought.  An hour later, Pk was whining because she wanted to keep playing and I wanted her for some homework and when dinner arrived, Lb threw a tantrum because he didn't want it to be put away.  They talked about shapes, they made the shapes on the tiles and, best of all, they made "Shapeville Parks" using the shapes.  Dh actually came upstairs to see what was going on since it was so quiet.

I think I've been inspired to try an afternoon quiet play time - now, to find a range of toys that are only allowed then and we can spend that time together.  I can't wait!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

Little Joys post 4

Finding joy has continued to be a bit of a challenge.  Between a burst pipe in our basement, a strange medication reaction for me and a migrane of the tallest order, I had to look a little bit harder for those bits of joy.  Have you ever found, though, that during the hard times, the little things seem more special?  That was definitely how it went for me!

First of all, no running water has a very long list of hazards.  Not being able to shower being top on that list.  Lucky for us, we happened to be dog sitting for a good friend who was away at a dog show.  Her house just happened to be empty and she just happens to be wonderfully generous.  After a quick email to her, we had access to a wonderful soaker tub with jets (rockets, as Pk loves to call them) and a shower.  Needless to say, we all availed ourselves of the luxuries!

Secondly, we went to ride the local Easter bunny steam train.  We did that with Pk when she was about 2 1/2 (the same age Lb is now) and she was TERRIFIED of the bunny.  The pink hat she is wearing was bought for her by my dad on that outing.  She was determined to show that she was no longer scared and she did a great job (although her eyes were like saucers when the bunny first arrived).  She very proudly announced to me that "it wasn't a real bunny anyway, just a person dressed up."  It was so much fun to do the train again and to see Lb jumping with glee and our lovely niece helping to make it a special day for everyone.

We went back to Dh's sister's house for dinner and had fun.  I had flexed my "pinterest muscles" a bit and made jello eggs (which were surprisingly yummy and got lots of "oohs" and "aahs" and the meal was great.  Pk adored getting to sit on her uncle's motorcycle.

Sadly, it was during dinner that the migrane hit.  One bit of gratitude was that I didn't throw up on the way home!

Happy Easter!