Thursday, 30 April 2015

What I Am Into - April 2015




What I Am Into :: April 2015

April was an adjusting month for us. Our daily rhythms were evaluated, dusted off, and given a bit of new life as I entered a new season - or, perhaps, reached back for something from an older season. My accounting career has sat quietly to the side as our family has grown over the years, and for us, that was perfect. April, however, brought about a new opportunity, and we decided that the time was right to open that door again. I'm working part-time hours in my field, and thanks to the wonders of technology, I get to do it entirely from home. So my mornings are earlier and my afternoon quiet time has morphed into work time and sometimes I slip away for an hour in the evening or on the weekend; it's ideal for me as a homeschooling stay-at-home parent, and I'm relieved that it's been a smooth transition so far.

On My Nightstand:

It did indeed take me a while, but I finished Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell early this year. Such an incredible piece of literature. Easily the best written book I have read in a very long time.

I finally read through Lois Lowry's worthy Giver Quartet. Although I was startled by the sudden ending of the first book, everything was nicely tied up throughout the rest of the books. The final one, Son, was my favourite, but all of them were absorbing and compelling reads.

Speaking of finally getting around to reading, I started Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time Quintet. I quite liked the first three books, but the fourth one is sitting half-read on my nightstand and I'm not particularly fussed about ever finishing it. Truth be told, I rather strongly dislike it. I know, that's barely even allowed, given the L'Engle love from basically everyone who has ever written anything ever. Please don't throw too many stones.

I bought Randall Munroe's What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions for the husband's Christmas present, and then promptly read through it myself as soon as he was done with it. Highly entertaining and interesting content.

I enjoyed Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train, as well as Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies and The Husband's Secret. I read both Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City straight through. Hello, 3am. Worth it. The accompanying photos are fascinating.

I've just started Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, and I'm utterly absorbed in it already.

Currently on the back burner are George Eliot's Middlemarch and Kate Atkinson's Life After Life.

On the Screen:

Not much, actually. I did watch Gone Girl, which was, incredibly, nearly as good as the book. I absolutely loved The Imitation Game. The Theory of Everything was both fascinating and disappointing; it was rather a depressing love story in the end.

In My Ears:

I have discovered that, for reasons entirely unknown to me, P!nk is absolutely perfect to listen to while I'm working. Put in the earphones, turn on the music, dim the various home sounds around me, and get a good hour of work done while P!nk does her musical thing. Love her.

In My Kitchen:

I've rediscovered the pleasure of yeast breads rising in my kitchen. Actually, that's a lie. They actually rise on top of my husband's computer, which is old and runs hot and rises bread just beautifully. I'm only a tiny bit devastated that he has a new computer on the way, after all these years - exciting for him, very very sad for my breads.

Anyway, my particular favourites recently include French bread, bread sticks, and rosemary olive oil bread.

In My Memories:

Jay ran a 10K marathon with his dad earlier this month. It was so neat to watch the two of them training and then running the race together. It's especially beautiful to have entered this stage where Jay's going to remember this sort of thing forever. While we love watching the little kids enjoy their experiences, knowing that it's contributing to a general sense of security and well-being and so on and so forth, there's just a little extra joy in knowing that some of the things we do will become actual real for-life memories now that our boys are getting older. I love that.

What I'm Looking Forward to in May:

You know, I'm simply looking forward to a quiet continuation of our new daily rhythms. This May holds no particular events and our calendar looks fresh and open and ready for as much sunshine as the weather has to offer.

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this past month. What about you?


Linking up to What I'm Into with HopefulLeigh...

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Ridiculous Hope

It's Easter Sunday and we're celebrating resurrection, life and light, victory and joy and hope. He Is Risen!

In the face of my heaviness, the sheer ridiculousness of this hope has never been more apparent. Look at us! Hope? Where?

Hope when we are steadily finding new ways to capitalize on brokenness? Hope in the face of greed that drives us to further and further depths? Hope when we pervert everything that is beautiful and good in this world? Hope in the midst of war and oppression and exploitation? It's ridiculous. Foolishness.

And yet we hope anyway. We trust not in our own selves but in the One Who has already declared victory over the darkness. He has come, He is coming, and He will come again. Alleluia!

Today we remember with the ease and comfort offered through the familiar Easter celebrations, but some days we forget. This is why we have been blessed with one another, this messy imperfect Bride of Christ, brought together that we may remind each other that hope and light and love exist.

This need echoes in my mind often these days. We have been learning to share our stories of heartache, pain, loss, unmet needs, failures, abuse - and it is Good. It is good to share, to understand, to heal. But oh, such stories. Such a steady stream of deep stories.

We need hope, too. Not instead of our stories of brokenness, but as well as. Both. Share our deep pain, always, yes, take away its power and receive comfort and bring more moments of me too so that less of us hide in shame. But the other stories, too, stories of joy and hope and beauty and compassion, stories filed with good and love and kindness - we need them. Let us not forget to tell them.

Let us show each other that this world also holds the good and holy things that we need and long for. Remind us of that ridiculous Hope we cling to, the one that says all is not lost, that darkness has already been defeated, that evil does not win and unity will one day be our song and our reality.

Proclaim your stories of hope, and in doing so buoy one another up. Hold on to that ridiculous hope, rejoicing in it not only today, but every day. He Is Risen!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Heavy

I feel heavy these days, heavy under the weight of the world's pain. I watch as despair curls and licks and winds its way near me, looking for a way to settle in. It's filled with lies, I know, the precise opposite of the hope that we know we have, but it's tempting to let it in all the same.

Money, sex, power, that trifecta of human apathy. Every day we hear more of the many ways in which we value a gained dollar, a passing moment of pleasure, a bit of control, over the person next to us or across the world from us. Of what concern is the good of our neighbour, wherever in the world that neighbour might live, in the face of selfishness and comfort and what's in it for me? There is such unimaginable horror in the things we do to each other, to all of creation.

Too often we look at one another and fail to see a created soul, loved and valued and of great worth. How many new ways will we find to objectify and oppress, to exploit and pervert, to treat people as commodities and opportunities? Money, sex, power, in endless permutations, big and small, and the small all the more insidious for their seeming unimportance. Endless, endless.

And here we are, remembering the death of the One Who was to free us from all this sin and death and darkness. Die to defeat death, to conquer sin, to pave the way for our salvation, to lay down His life in showing us what Love looks like in action, all the varied and familiar ways we talk about what was done and why and yet - and yet. And yet today I struggle to see it. He has overcome darkness but I see little else.

This is why the world needs every reason it can find for celebration, for joy, for expressions of love. Let us see that there is good, too, and beauty and love and compassion and togetherness and all the things we need and long for. This is why we write down gratitude, why we seek opportunities for joy and celebration, why we shine light and be light and bear witness to light. This is why we push back the darkness again and again and again, reminding ourselves of our own selves, because we are not immune to the things that bring us to tears when we see them in others. This is why we try to do a little good each day, wherever we are, in whatever way we can.

But today I simply feel heavy with the weight of all that breaks our hearts in this world - and perhaps that's as it should be on a Good Friday. Shed tears for the evil, the horror, the brokenness, and the apathy. Light candles and repent and wait, wait, let despair wash over only for a moment and then remember hope as Sunday dawns.

Such is the already-and-not-yet of God's Kingdom Come.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

What babies do

I was tough, once upon a time. I was tough and untouchable and unreachable and unabashedly proud of it. Just try to make me cry. Just try to make me reveal the deeper parts of me. Just try to make me share myself, my thoughts, my fears, my dreams. Just try.

Sometimes I wondered what was wrong with me. I didn't cry at deaths or funerals or marriages or births or any of those other tear-worthy events. I still don't. Four times now I've birthed my own flesh and blood and still not shed a tear; am I broken?

But then I look at my babies, later, I mean, when it's just the two of us and everything is perfectly ordinary. I look at them and my heart swells and I cry, I do. I tear right up at the sheer perfection that is this child. I really and truly get to raise this tiny human? Really? It's baffling and beautiful and terrifying and wonderful and yes, I cry. Now I cry.

Maybe this is what babies do: They make us soft. Soft around the middle, soft in our hearts, those hearts we now watch walking around in the world.

(Maybe they even make us a bit soft in the head. There was a time when I loved a good intellectual debate; now, though, I find less interest in reasoning someone under the table. Perhaps it's because I spend all day with argumentative children. I'm simply all argued out. Let's just hang out and not debate the timing of chore-doing or the merits of sharing or the importance of whatever life skill is currently lacking. Yes?)

My great-grandmother was fond of reminding others that it's those who are closest to us who hurt us the most. She said it bitterly, though, and that bitterness was passed down to her daughter and then to her grand-daughter, my mother, who repeated it often to me as I disappointed her time and again.

I want to be the woman who takes the bitterness out of that adage. Yes, those who are closest to us will hurt us the most. But it not because of them - it's because of us. It's not because they treat our feelings carelessly or take us for granted. It's because we care so much more. We love and fear and worry and protect and care. It is our own love that wounds us. And oh, there are mama-aches innumerable as they grow.

These babies of ours make us soft, vulnerable. But it's a softness born of love; it's an ache as their humanity collides with our hearts; it's the madness of seeing both perfection and weakness, both indescribable beauty and utter chaos, in the same small person. It's rediscovering our own weaknesses through the eyes of a child. It's a refining, to be sure.

Yes, I'm softer now.

It's what babies do.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Little People: An Introduction

For most of my time in this space, I have referred to my nameless children by their growing titles: the boy, the preschooler, the toddler, baby girl, baby boy, whatever was appropriate at the time. These descriptions, useful but ever-changing, have become increasingly more difficult as time passes.

The olders are mentioned here less often, their individual lives and stories being left alone for them to tell on their own someday, at a time and to an audience of their choosing. I still like to chat about them, though, just those innocuous everyday comings and goings that make up the pattern of our lives. The babies, of course, are fairer game, being rather universal in their coos and cries and naps. Either way, still small or growing older, how much simpler to just refer to them by name!

To that end, I'd like to properly introduce you to my little people, with nicknames and ages and oh so very big personalities:


This is Jay. He's coming up on eight years old, and like countless mothers before me, I can scarcely believe it. Sometimes I catch myself staring at him, just staring, marveling at how old (and yet still so young) he looks. He has a delicious sprinkling of freckles across his nose; he pretends to hate them but grins all the same as I try to kiss each one. Then he wipes my kisses off, because gross, Mom, but that's okay, there are more where those came from and I can't get enough of his laughter. He is my mini-me, my childhood self reincarnated, which is beautiful and hard and lovely and challenging and more than a little frightening. He is, in a word, amazing, and I am endlessly in awe of the person he is growing into. He loves late night snuggles, a chance to talk about his day and ask his big questions long after the other kids have fallen asleep. His interests vary from math to soccer to science to drawing to reading to comics to Mario Kart. He cheers for any sports team but the one his dad cheers for, and he is full of mischief and love and thoughtfulness.


This is Kai. Oh, my wild five year old, endless bounding energy and passion and extremes. He's everything his brother wasn't - the lover of potty humour, weapons, wrestling, and all that is loud and crazy. He will protest chores like it's the end of the world, no, I'm not going to do that, I won't, a steady stream of refusal right up until the job is finished. Then off he goes, cheerful as ever, and I just smile and shake my head at his ability to dig his heals in even as he does the task at hand. He's never felt a need to do anything at less than full volume and throttle. He's a determined skater, his Canadian-boy dreams filled with the hope of becoming a hockey player someday. He is my incredible storyteller: Kai has an entire imaginary village in his head, and we are often regaled with tales of "his people" as we sit around the dinner table. The inner workings of his body, too, are a story unto themselves, from the "reflections" that his eyes shoot out to the armour-covered white blood cells that not only destroy germs but also build themselves little houses. Kai's stories are as much a part of him as his arms and legs.



This is Ell. She is my delightful baby girl, as much as her two-and-a-half years will still allow me to call her that. She is every bit as passionate and unbounded as the one before her, loud and silly and wild and crazy and passionate and joyful. Her steady narration is the background music of my day: "What you doing, Mommy? Oh, you cooking? What you cooking? Oh, you cooking oatmeal? I yike oatmeal. We have boo-berries? Oh, we do have boo-berries? I yike boo-berries. Oh! Baby wake up! He wake up by hisself! I not wake him up! HEY BABY! I YUV YOU, BABY! You wake up!" If her brothers are doing it, she wants to do it, always right there in the middle of everything. She thanks me enthusiastically every time I do the laundry, which is often, given the amount of laundry around here. She takes great delight in combing her daddy's hair: "Turn head, Daddy. Now down. Now up. Now udder side." This one likes her routines, a nice predictable pattern in which to snuggle safely. She's my little thumb-sucker, hair-twirler, and lover of all that is Hello Kitty.



This is Min. Oh, my Min. He's been melting our hearts for half a year already. He likes to chew on fingers and pull on his sister's hair, much to her indignation. He is the sort of happy that cannot be described, just endless smiles and cuddles and laughter and contentment. I could happily spend my days nomming his neck or blowing raspberries on his belly or letting him grab my face as I growl at him. I was pretty chill with my babies - friends and strangers alike have always commented on that, you're just so calm! - but this one? This fourth sweet baby? He's the one who released those last niggling worries, foolishness about holding babies too much or forming bad habits or spoiling them or other such ridiculous nonsense. No, this one is my joy-baby, my snuggle-baby, my don't-worry-about-a-thing-baby, my soak-him-up-baby, because every cliché about how fast they grow is true. They are all so very very true. Babies are made for days like these, slow days of cuddles and laughter and entirely devoid of worry. It all works out in the end.

Introductions finally accomplished and story-telling made a little simpler, I hope to return to a more steady pace in this little space of mine. Thank you for being here.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

What I want to give up for Lent


Lent has arrived and there is much I want to give up.

I want to give up my worries, all of them. Always worry has been my steady companion and tormentor. There have been too many sleepless nights, too many what ifs, too many knots twisting stomach and shoulders and relationships because worry, worry. Because of these anxieties, I have seen things that do not exist, believed things about others that are untrue, and heard words that were never said - demons, all of them, that worry has given life to. I have not trusted you, Lord, in the small things or the significant things; forgive me.

I want to give up my apathy. Too often I am content with the bread and circuses society offers, and in doing so I turn my eyes and heart and hands away from that which should fully capture them. I line my thighs with excess calories while others go hungry. I buy things I do not need. I scoff at the idiocy of a culture that would discuss at length the appropriateness of wearing yoga pants while giving no thought at all to the working conditions of those who make their clothes in the first place, and yet in so many ways, I am no different. I can be equally unconcerned, equally unbroken, over the things that deeply matter rather than the frivolous things that raise my blood pressure and occupy my thoughts. Forgive me, Lord, for my apathy.

I want to give up my perfectionism, that drive that says if you can't do it just so and all the way, then why bother doing it at all? This perfectionism has kept me from carrying out in body what my heart desires. It has heaped shame on those I love. It has made me a poor friend. It has limited my desire to live a full and creative life. I want to do not for approval, but for Love's sake alone. Forgive me, Lord, for the control I have allowed perfectionism to have and all that I have allowed it to rob from my life and my relationships.

I want to give up my hurry. Always rushing about, quick, we'll be late, come on, let's go, I want to get home, pay attention, this needs to get done, I'm busy, I have other things that need attending, quick quick hurry hurry now. I want to be less inconvenienced by the minor nothings that cause me to sigh or rant my impatience, those moments of spilled cereal or late-night needs or other such grand-scheme-of-things trivialities. I want to be slow, calm, more willing to see joy than to rush through the moment's task. I have missed much in my busyness; forgive me, Lord.

If only it were possible to turn these things off, the way I turned off my computer in past years. Remove them from the house like foods we've given up before. Put them in a drawer and leave them there while these forty days pass by.

If only.

But these things are woven among the better parts of me, not easily separated and set aside. They are my continually-working-out areas, long and slow processes as the One who created me untwists the broken parts inside, burns away the impurities and brings me ever closer to my true and whole self.

I'll quietly choose something different this year, something separate and concrete - but if I could, I'd give up all of the above instead.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Whoever said the days are long?

Whoever said the days are long?

(Oh yes, I did, once or twice or probably a lot.)

They don't feel long anymore. These days I'm holding on tight, and when I'm not holding on, I'm reaching to catch up. Where do the hours go?

Every day the baby looks older, the toddler jabbers on more clearly, the little boy learns more, and the bigger boy asks more. We moved the boys into bunk beds this weekend, and my (oft-neglected) craft room has been turned into a bedroom for baby girl. We're back down to just three in our bedroom now, the smallest baby and the husband and I, and I already miss hearing her light snores. But now she's in big-girl underwear and a big-girl bed in her own big-girl room and I guess it's time I stopped calling her baby girl?

No. She's still my baby. They all are.

I know why the days are slipping away like this. It's because of this death grip I have on them. Wait. Slow down. I need more time. I need more moments. I need more memories. It's all going by too quickly. I'm missing it, mourning its passing, even as it happens.

Relax. I tell myself again and again but I can't seem to let go of that frantic feeling. They're growing up and I make too many mistakes and I'm tired and there's so much to do and even more that I want to do and so much I never get around to and I need to get off this hamster wheel.

I know what I need to do. I know it demands surrender instead of control, calm rather than panic, intention rather that reaction - oh yes, and probably an earlier bedtime, as sad as that makes my introverted self.

I know what I need because there are moments when I feel it, moments when I actually get it right. It happens when I watch the baby fall asleep, when I say yes to a request for a bedtime snuggle, when I get outside and breathe the crisp air, when I run or laugh or look someone in the eye, when I turn off the light on another day and feel satisfied...

...when I celebrate this moment instead of grieving its passing.

This is my daily practice, today and tomorrow and the day after that, every day, trying again and again to enjoy the passing hours instead of clutching them in my fist in an attempt to hoard what will inevitably pass by.

Relax, laugh, celebrate, and enjoy.