Category Archives: favourites

So Here’s 2014

This year will always be defined by a single event. A single phone call on October 28th. A single word spoken by our family doctor. Leukemia.

It has subsumed almost everything in it’s path. But there was more to our life before. And there is more to our life now. That’s a good thing to remember.

2014 was mostly a good year. And life is more than cancer and chemo and hospital stays. Even there, it trickles into the cracks.

As B smiles and waves and calls out cheerful “hellos” to all the people we pass as the porter pushes her wheelchair to and from the oncology ward – her own personal parade route. As big sisters step into the gaps, mature beyond their years. As friends and strangers shower us with support in the form of food, money, gifts and prayers. As we find humour in the darkest places, like the generic gift assigned to B that just happened to be several bags of hair clips and a giant hair brush – worst. gift. ever. We had to laugh (especially because she loved that stupid brush all the same).

baldisbeautiful

Life is bigger than cancer.

Love. Hope. Faith. God. All bigger than cancer.

That’s what we’re banking on.

So here’s us, as seen through our favourite posts, in 2014…

January

shoes

Putting Myself in Her Shoes

There’s noise buzzing beside my head… loud, annoying. I hold my marker tighter. Lean closer, closer, closer. My nose is filled with the sting of ink.
scratch.
scratch.
scratch…  

February

couch

Once Upon a Marriage

It wasn’t easy, getting married as young as we were. But we were too stupid naïve, too thrilled with our new-found freedom and togetherness to care.

Remember the hideous second-hand couch we were so excited to receive? It was SO uncomfortable! But we threw a green sheet over it and decided we were really grown ups now. At our age uncomfortable seating didn’t seem like such a big deal. Besides, it was just temporary. Eventually life would get easier, better, more secure

Read More.

March

by michael svigel the christian post siftingpoint.com

by michael svigel the christian post
siftingpoint.com

Confession Time

I’ve been cheating.

Unfaithful.

Stepping out.

On my church. With another church…

Read More.

April

house

The Stranger: A short story

The Señor is enthroned in a frayed green armchair on the other side of the room. Straight-backed, legs planted wide, with a cane in his hand like a sceptre, he scowls over the coffee table at me.

“Well… you gonna come in, or what?”

I’ve never encountered a more intimidating stranger…

Read More.

May

life

I Live In Between

Most of my life is spent in a place of too much and not enough.

Too much to do, and not enough time.
Too much stuff, and not enough space.
Too much eaten, and not enough activity.
Too much spent, and not enough saved.
Too much stress, and not enough rest.

You get the picture. You probably live in this picture too. Most of us internet-trawling, Facebook-posting, smart-phone-clutching, Consumers-and-Users do. We don’t want to. We don’t plan to. We read and write and repost all sorts of things to avoid it. But, it’s the curse of modern life

Read More.

June

First steps in the door bringing our new son home forever!

Two Years Ago Today!

Unpacking

The tag on the back says “12 mos” – a measure of size and not age. I shake out the blue and white checked pants before folding them, tangible proof that our almost two-year-old is much smaller than most his age. Tiny shirts, pants, footie pajamas and an impressive array of cute onesies emerge from cloth shopping bags, filling the mostly empty drawers.

I move the size 2 outfits we’d purchased to the closet. The weight and height measurements we had gleaned from medical files did nothing to prepare us for the Lilliputian dimensions of our brand new toddler.

Brand new to us, that is. Up until now he’d been an abstraction, the idea of a son sketched out in black and white via e-mails and social workers’ reports

Read More.

July

Yes - those are hockey sticks. How Canadian.

Yes – those are hockey sticks. How Canadian.

Beyond Obligation

He has been contractually obligated to love me for 19 years. And I him.

Half my life. My entire adulthood tied up in another person. And his in me… 

Read More.

August

photo 2

Raising You is an Art, not a Science

Dear 12-year-old,

Before you, I thought parenting worked like science – laws and equations, inputs and outputs, theories to be proven and disproven with clear, quantifiable results. I may not have used those words. I may not have been aware that I believed this. But my first few years as a mother, and my experience as a daycare teacher, led me to calmly assume that I could manage and mold, if not control, my children.

Your sister, who’s always been predictable, logical and mostly straightforward, strengthened this approach. I had Opinions. I took Positions on the Issues.

Then you came…

Read More.

September

apr08 136

10 Lessons My Daughter is Teaching Me

Ten years seems like a long time. A long time to be alive and learning and growing and discovering new things – and that’s just us. You’ve had a lot going on too!

In the past ten years you’ve brought us to life in a new way and taught us what matters most and nurtured our best selves and made every day an adventure…

Read More.

October

cancerbegins

That Terrible Twist that Changes Everything

Two days ago the biggest worries on my mind were: securing funding for speech therapy, my children’s potential texting addictions, and getting my butt out the door for book club.

In the space of a single phone call that all disappeared. In fact, it feels like the ground beneath our feet disappeared too. A cosmic upending. As if some powerful hand has shaken our world like a snow globe.

We are left dizzy, reeling, surveying the damage to our orderly plans and expectations. And terrified…

Read More.

November

chemo

A Bad Cancer Day

…although I wax eloquent about sharing the real story in all it’s raw ugliness, I know that most don’t want to hear it. Cute and cuddly tales from the cancer ward are much more palatable – an uplifting message with a smiling picture to boot.

But this is life too. The low points. The bad shit…

Read More.

December

The Big “C” Doesn’t Stand for Christmas Around Here

‘Tis the season to put on a happy face, some matchy-matchy outfits and show the world how fabulous it is to be me; surpassed only by the sheer joy that comes from being one of my well-adjusted children.

It’s a festive filter. Not lies so much as a iron-willed determination to focus on all the happy, and only the happy. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’ve often looked at a carefully staged family photo and been encouraged. Because we are those people, the best and the brightest parts of our lives.

But we’re also the dark and the ugly… 

Read More.

So here’s us, in 2014.

maya3

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What I’m Into: Summer 2014

It’s been a long time since I shared a “What I’m Into” post. I haven’t posted much of anything for the past 3 months. Clearly, I’m not that into blogging lately. Not that I’ve lost my love for writing as a hobby/therapy/desperate bid for attention – let’s pretend I didn’t actually spell out that last reason out, shall we?

The truth is, I’ve spent a great deal of my writing mojo on other projects lately. Hesitantly poking my nose into freelance articles, writing poetry and short stories I may never show anyone, and even, deep breath admitting this out loud, the start of my sci-fi YA novel. There are other outlets that would make more sense both financially and practically right now. But sometimes you have to do what makes your heart sing, no matter how silly it seems to everyone else.

So here’s a few of the other things that made my heart sing this summer:

the Calgary Stampede, steak and cheese bread from Ceasar’s, making s’mores with family from far and wide, a backyard full of toys and half-naked cousins, little ones kissing Gigi on the cheek

sour cherry slurpees, lifesaver popsicles and watermelon on the hot, miserable days

kiddie pools, beach days and eating on the deck

finding new sci-fi buddies in my own house (thanks to Aunt Colleen for the amazing Marvel-cation you gave L and C this summer) – next up: Star Trek

brand new text books full of things to learn (art history, medieval literature and creative writing)

Reading

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is technically a children’s book (ages 9-12), but I’ve read it twice already. This should be required reading for everyone who’s ever known someone with a disability, or ever will. Funny, gut-wrenching and uplifting by turns it follows Auggie Pullman, who was born with a drastic facial deformity, as he attends school (grade 5) for the first time.

Cinder, followed by Scarlett and Cress in short order. I both love and hate the cliff-hanger endings, especially since the fourth and final installment doesn’t come out until next year. The premise of these futuristic fairy tales (Cinderella the cyborg) is intriguing and the writing is solid, if not brilliant. I’ll go a long way for a clever premise.

Black Dog, Dream Dog is a sweet tale written by Michelle Superle for young dog lovers. I am neither of those things, but a fan of the author and the art of gentle story-telling. They don’t make enough like these anymore.

Bloom by Kelle Hampton has been sitting on my shelf for months. It’s recommended to me, and no doubt every other mother of a child with Down Syndrome, on a regular basis. I admire Kelle’s unvarnished honesty, her stunning photography and her lovely writing. BUT, her experience is as different from mine as night and day. It was so hard to relate to. For those with little experience in the messiness of life, those who pursue picture perfect and are facing the first bump in the road, this might be the book for you. But not for me.

I also really, really wanted to enjoy Blue Shoe by one of my favourite authors Anne Lamotte, but alas, I hated it.

Watching

This summer my TV (read: Netflix) watching has consisted of:

  • Season 2 of Veronica Mars
  • Suits – a stylish and fun (though unrealistic) drama about lawyers
  • A blast from my far past – Highlander (full episodes found on Youtube)
  • Extant – weird, but interesting
  • Under the Dome – losing steam, but refusing to give up entirely

The movies that I’ve enjoyed lately are:

  • If I Stay, a sugary sweet, but still palatable story about family, death and young love
  • The silly, but strangely endearing Guardians of the Galaxy
  • And for some reason, despite the gory violence, Lucy

I don’t know if I’m getting old (or boring according to my kids), but I’m enjoying documentaries and Ted Talks an awful lot these days. Here’s a few of my favourites:

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

If you stumble on me doing an aggressive Wonderwoman pose in the bathroom, blame science.

The Happiness Advantage

The Game that can give you 10 Extra Years of Life

Blogging

Summer isn’t all fun and games. I’m learning to Exhale and accept that Grown Up is Hard to Be. I even posted my first celebraty tribute: Robin Williams and the Human Condition.

We celebrated 19 years of imperfect, but mostly happy marriage this July – Beyond Obligation.

The summer is also a time for birthdays, which in our family means birthday letters. After much discussion, the kids agreed they can be posted on the blog (I suspect it has something to do with the rave reviews we give them). He’s big. He’s bad. He’s four., Raising You is an Art, not a Science, and Prima Ballerina.

So here’s us, facing an uncertain fall full of new things. Teacher’s strike looming, all new SEA’s and teachers for the girl, full time school for me and 4 days a week of preschool for the boy. Wonderwoman poses for everyone.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer:

what I'm into


What I’m Into: April 2014

How did May sneak up on me? Not to mention the entirety of this past year. Yet, here I sit with sun beams and computer screen competing for my attention (sunbeams are pulling into the lead… I may never finish this post).

On Friday, for Pro-D day, I packed up all the kids, and a spare, along with juice boxes, pita chips, sushi, a giant umbrella, towels, kites, buckets, shovels and dozen plastic dinosaurs. The first beach day of the year was definitely the highlight of the month!

My One Word this year is “Breathe” as I’m learning to taste and savour life moment by moment. I’m still a novice at this. But, somehow, it’s so much easier in the sunshine.

Here’s a taste of my past month…

Reading

What if you woke up one day and 10 years had passed? One minute you’re happily married, expecting your first child and the next you’ve got three kids and are in the midst of a messy divorce. Although the bump-to-the-head-causing-amnesia plot device is pretty cliché, What Alice Forgot (Moriarty) is engaging enough to live it down. I couldn’t help but wonder what 29-year-old me would think of how my life has actually turned out.

Another fun read by Rainbow Rowell, Attachments is an offbeat romance which unfolds primarily through email. Lincoln, an internet security officer is tasked with reading through all flagged messages on the company server. Instead of reporting the witty banter between two of his coworkers he finds himself enjoying and eventually falling for one of them, who he’s never met.

On a more serious note, I borrowed I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Yousafzai) from our 12-year-old neighbour and am currently concocting schemes to get my children to read it. Yes, it is an interesting look at life as a Muslim in Pakistan, but it is the personality of Malala herself that is most compelling. In light of the kidnapping and enslavement of Nigerian schoolgirls recently, the issue of girls education is more pressing than ever.

It’s not all fun reading at our house. The Out of Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder (Kranowitz) is practically required reading for anyone whose child has trouble coping with the demands of daily life and seems a little out of step with the rest (typically developing and special needs kids). Whether it is to rule out or better understand this particular brand of struggle, this book presents a ton of information and many practical suggestions.

I put off reading A Generous Orthodoxy for a long time, because the subtitle is both long and confusing. I’m glad I did, because it is a perfect time for me to read it now. McLaren explores both the strengths and issues embodied by many distinctive groups within Christianity, encouraging us to recognize and embrace the contributions of each one while building a less defensive faith community. Something for everyone to both appreciate and hate. Good stuff.

Watching

Netflix apparently knows me well. They suggested I might like The 100 about a post-apocalyptic earth – both the humans who’ve lived for generations aboard a space station and the group of 100 teenagers they send to earth both to reduce the strain on resources and to ascertain if it is now survivable. What would we sacrifice in the name of survival? At what point is our humanity at risk?

I’ve converted my husband. After season 1 of Veronica Mars he is a believer. If only I could break him of his nasty House of Cards habit. Yuck.

Call me an idealist. Most of the time I like a hero who is unswervingly good. Which is why Captain America is my favourite Avenger despite his terrible costume and cheesy patriotism (after all, I am Canadian). I wasn’t disappointed by Captain America:  The Winter Soldier – definitely the best Marvel movie so far!

Thinking Deep Thoughts

As we’ve found ourselves moving into a new spiritual community I’ve been contemplating the nature of friendship, both building new relationships and maintaining established ones. I am, admittedly, a technophile with my iPhone always close at hand. I feel the draw of easy, efficient, but ultimately superficial social media connections. Ironically, there are several articles and videos making their way around Facebook right now about the drawbacks and dangers of our new virtual communities.

also: Loneliness in the Age of Facebook

They’re not wrong. As I click back to my newsfeed after watching/reading these kind of things I’m filled with guilt and discouragement and worry. Social media certainly has a dark side. It can be too much about too little, a poor substitute for real intimacy, and it can swallow up my actual life.

BUT, it’s only a tool. Built to serve us, not for us to serve it. We can use its power for our good.  I’m reminded of the advice and encouragement I’ve gotten from friends and family when I needed it most, the nephews and nieces whose faces and habits I am familiar with though they live far away, the childhood companions I’ve connected with (both online and in person), the new friends I’ve gotten to know and appreciate though my face-to-face with fellow adults is limited, and the cherished old friends I haven’t lost touch with though we no longer move in the same circles. There are so many things I love about it, that make my life better, when I use it to enhance reality and actual friendship, not to replace it.

Now, to figure out how to do that…

Blogging

I’ve  added another post to my What I Believe series about my changing views on God and the world and our place in it: Embracing a Bigger Gospel

I also posted a short story I wrote which was… wait for it… published in UFV’s literary magazine! Yay! The Stranger (aka – Who Will Remember) is about memory and family and losing both through dementia.stranger

So here’s me, from the sunny West Coast. My sincere condolences to everyone else in the world. While I was splashing in the ocean my family in Calgary was digging themselves out of yet another snowstorm.

Once again, I am linking up with a group of talented bloggers for Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into”
– definitely worth checking out!
what I'm into

 

 


The Winding Road to Baker Street: A Guest Post

Welcome to my very first Guest Post, and to sweeten the pot – a Free Prize! Everyone who leaves a comment on this post before April 10th will be entered to win an e-copy of Angela Misri‘s brilliant debut novel – Jewel of the Thames.

When I think of Angela, certain moments come to mind: my first meal of authentic Indian food, dressing up in a sari, whispering into the night and between classes about the great mysteries of life (that’s right – boys). I assumed, the way teenagers do when life is supposed to make sense and you don’t know what you don’t know, that Ang would grow up and become a writer. Of course she would. It seemed so simple.

But life is never a straight line.

So here’s Angela’s story…baker street

There are these moments that <dramatic music please> change your life forever. Christie can attest to this, she and I have shared one or two of these moments over our 20-year (!!!) friendship. These are the moments that led to Jewel of the Thames becoming a reality.

Everything changed for me one spring day in 1992 at an assembly in the gym where, as per usual, I was giggling and whispering with my friends in the audience. Suddenly my name was called by the Principal of the school and I was jostled out from the safety of the herd and to the front of the room. Having not really listened to the preceding speech, I was shocked to learn that a poem I had written as part of a school assignment had been published in an anthology of like-quality poems by Canadian children. The Principal smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen on a teacher, and handed me a copy of the coil-bound anthology, turning me back towards the audience of my schoolmates and starting the applause that followed me back to my safe haven between her best friends.

That was the moment when I discovered that despite being of Indian descent, there were in fact other options for your life’s work than medicine or engineering.

You would think that that moment would be enough to put me on the right path, but no, I struggled gamely through two years of pre-med, an MCAT and a summer dissecting cats in a neurology lab (no, really, it happened) before taking my first University-level Shakespeare course. The class was a requirement for the BSc I was clawing my way towards despite terrible grades in math and physics.

I was getting an A in the class and thoroughly enjoying it, sad that it would be ending, and sad I would be leaving my favourite teacher, Dr. Batycki when on the very last day of class she called me over. My classmates and I were lazily talking amongst ourselves about the spring and plans for the summer, so I remember feeling very comfortable and happy that day. Dr. Batycki stepped outside the classroom, holding the door open for me, and then grasping both my hands in hers, proceeded to tell me that I was a writer. No, not just a person who enjoyed reading and writing, but a person who SHOULD be writing. I of course denied it, explaining that I was going to be a doctor, that maybe someday I would write medical textbooks (my father’s suggestion when years earlier I had asked about writing as a profession) but I was not a writer – that’s just something I did for fun. She smiled at me then, and took up my hands again (which I had dropped in shock and denial) and just said it again, “You are a writer, Angela,” and then patted me on the shoulder and went back into the classroom.

That was the moment I discovered that you can deny your destiny all you want – it will, like Lady Macbeth’s spot – mark you forever to all who meet you.

Between that moment and my truly horrendous marks in math, I switched to English Literature, and excelled, moving further and taking a Masters in Journalism before my 23rd birthday. I wrote my first full-length novel in those years, a historical fiction set in 3B.C. India called ‘Savitri,’ and many poems that will never see the light of day if I have my way. I also wrote a thesis about Sherlock Holmes that would set the stage for the Portia Adams Adventures. It was a psychoanalysis of the great fictional detective in which I postulated that he was bipolar. It was incredibly fun to research and write and allowed me to read everything about Holmes and Conan-Doyle and many of the other authors who had taken to writing about the Baker Street detective since then.

You remember Galadriel’s lines at the beginning of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.” Ok, so my writings were not lost for that long, but for almost 10 years, while I was excelling in Digital Journalism at the CBC and raising my son, I barely wrote anything that wasn’t a news story or a web documentary.

Suddenly, on a trip to San Francisco, I was so inspired by the landscape and colours of the desert that I started writing a short story in my moleskin notebook. That story grew to over 80,000 words of a time-travel novel and inspired more writing, and more poems and suddenly I was writing all the time – stopping only because my hand would cramp up around my pen. I wrote on the train in to work, I wrote at lunch time, I wrote on the ride home, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.

During my last two years at the CBC, I that novel set in San Fran plus three books about detective Portia Adams – 35 moleskin notebooks in all.

During my last two years at the CBC, I wrote that novel set in San Fran plus three books about detective Portia Adams – filling 35 moleskin notebooks in all.

That was the moment when I discovered that I should write novels.

Finally, the pressure of having all these books written with no one to read them got to me and I hung up my headphones (I worked in radio, follow along people) and left the CBC to get published (again).

Life is about moments. These are the ones that led to me becoming a novelist.

Angela, the real life author, at a book signing! Photo by Wayne MacPhail

Angela, the real life author, at a book signing!
Photo by Wayne MacPhail

I’ve already given my review of the book itself, but judge for yourself. Here’s a brief synopsis:

There’s a new detective at 221 Baker Street

jewel of the thames front coverSet against the background of 1930s England, Jewel of the Thames introduces Portia Adams, a budding detective with an interesting — and somewhat mysterious — heritage.

Nineteen-year-old Portia Adams has always been inquisitive. There’s nothing she likes better than working her way through a mystery. When her mother dies, Portia puzzles over why she was left in the care of the extravagant Mrs. Jones but doesn’t have long to dwell on it before she is promptly whisked from Toronto to London by her new guardian. Once there Portia discovers that she has inherited 221 Baker Street — the former offices of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Portia settles into her new home and gets to know her downstairs tenants, including the handsome and charming Brian Dawes. She also finds herself entangled in three cases: the first involving stolen jewelry, the second a sick judge and the final case revolving around a kidnapped child. But the greatest mystery of all is her own. How did she come to inherit this townhouse? And why did her mother keep her heritage from her? Portia has a feeling Mrs. Jones knows more than she is letting on. In fact, she thinks her new guardian may be the biggest clue of all.

So here’s your big chance, leave a comment here (before April 10th) and you can win a FREE e-copy of Jewel of the Thames! Answer a question, or simply leave your name to be entered into the draw.

What childhood dream have you recently reclaimed?

What moment has changed the trajectory of your life?

Which fictional detective do you most closely resemble?

 


What I’m Into: March 2014

Today was a sunny day.

Ya, that’s right. Sun. Blue sky. Green grass. I wore shorts.

We who live on the rainy West Coast complain a lot. And it is grey and soggy and unrelenting. But sometimes, while our relatives are digging themselves out from another snowstorm, we’re digging out the sunscreen. We win.

Reading

I’m SO relieved I don’t have to think of diplomatic things to say about my friend Angela’s new book, Jewel of the Thames. I loved it! You know when you eat a meal that hits the spot – feeding a craving you weren’t even aware you had? That’s what this book did for me.
BBC’s Sherlock rekindled my fascination with the unconventional genius detective; Angela Misri feeds it with this fun read. Portia Adams, recently orphaned, discovers she is heiress of 221 Baker St from the mysterious grandfather she never knew. As with all my favourite detectives she is quirky, tough and brilliant. The mysteries are intriguing and I whipped through it at record speed.
PLUS – as a special bonus, my friend Ang has agreed to be the first official guest poster on this blog on Thursday!
jewel of the thames front cover

I also read The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall this month – exploring the necessity of narrative, a power so integral to humanity we rarely notice how completely we are immersed in it. It’s a dense book exploring competing ideas about everything from literature to dreams to LARPing (that’s Live Action Role Playing, non-nerds), but it is full of story itself, never once feeling like a textbook. I usually dislike evolutionary psychology, but this author manages to present his ideas without sucking the mystery and magic out of life. So much to think about… a fascinating read for every bookworm and amateur sociologist.

Surfing

My second cousin and a friend put together this unusual blog. Weekly Love Story tells a unique story about real-life love each week. They reach beyond formulaic Hollywood romance to show us everyday beauty: a meeting of the minds, sister and brother, a beloved child, passing friendships… there is so much out there worth celebrating. It always brightens my day!

Watching

A friend reminded me of this poem recently: The Shrinking Woman, about our tendency as women to agonize over how much space we deserve to occupy in our own worlds, not just physically, but in other ways too.

As usual, I’m behind the times in watching Call the Midwife. After the first couple of episodes I liked it just fine, but didn’t see what the big deal was. By number 4, I had fallen deeply in love with this series. It is by turns gritty, sweet, challenging, heartwarming and deeply human – a celebration of community and womanhood set in East London during the 1950s.

After watching the (pretty good, but not as amazing as the series) movie with me, Glen agreed to watch all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars together. That’s love!

Our family gives The Muppets: Most Wanted a unanimous “okay” – a fun show, but not nearly as good as the last one.

Advocating

Last year the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that our prostitution laws are unconstitutional. The government has been given until December 2014 to draft new laws. The conservative government has been here before and ultimately committee recommendations to implement a Nordic (abolitionist) model were overlooked. Although the official deadline for public input was March, we can still influence the direction our country takes.

As for me, I’m an abolitionist. Here’s why:

abolition infographic

abolition 2

abolition 3

abolition 4

abolition 5

abolition 6

Infographic by: rethinklife.org

For more info or to get involved, check out:

The Women’s Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution

Blogging

This has been a strange month for So Here’s Us. I’m all over the place.

On one hand is my usual fare, a poem for World Down Syndrome Day: I Am Me; another one for So-Overwhelmed-I’m-Losing-My-Mind Day (aka – almost every day): Sinking; and finally an introspective piece about things life is teaching me: Excuse Me While I Apologize for Living.

On the other hand, I’ve started a new series called What I Believe explaining our new life philosophy. It starts with a break-up letter to our beloved church: Confession Time and explains the biggest shift: From Certainty to Mystery. For those interested in spiritual matters, stay tuned for Embracing a Bigger Gospel and What is a Progressive Christian Anyway?

So here’s us, panting for spring and all the new beginnings that come with it.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” list.

 what I'm into

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What I’m Into November 2013

This month has been overwhelming. It’s possible that my plan to write an entire novel while finishing up an intense writing course and parenting 4 children was a WEE bit ambitious. But NaNoWriMo was actually fun and the 6 chapters I finished wet my appetite for writing fiction. Someday.

Once again, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer and dozens of other bloggers for ‘What I’m Into’ this month.

November was a month of:

Fangirling

I met one of my favourite writers, one of the first bloggers I followed regularly when I found my way to the blogosphere. Sarah Bessey taught me that you can have a gentle, quiet spirit AND a powerful voice. She just released her book: Jesus Feminist; where we are feminist, not in spite of, but because of our faith. Brilliant. A must read.

me and sarah

Terrible photo of me, but I still love it, because… Sarah Bessey!

She’s taught me a lot over the years and it was a struggle for me to play it cool ‘In Real Life.’ Hopefully somewhere between the enthusiastic rambling and a sweaty hug she heard “I love your work, and respect your words, and even though I don’t comment very often, I feel like I know you. Thank you for pouring yourself out for all of us to see.”

Reading

Confirming, once again, my belief that the book is always better than the movie. And the movie was pretty good. The Book Thief has a quirky, approachable style, even as it carries us through a dark and depressing time. I paused many times to reread a brilliant sentence or phrase along the way. Good reading for adults and teens alike.

Watching Movies

Joining the pantheon of epic heart-breakers, 12 Years a Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man in the 1800’s who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, later writing about his experiences.

At the end, with tears streaming down our faces, we asked “what are we supposed to do with that?” I’m still asking. Especially in a world where slavery is alive and well in its various forms.

Ender’s Game is based on a classic Sci-Fi novel about a world of war games and child prodigies battling an alien threat. Intriguing. Even Glen enjoyed it.

Of course, Catching Fire was a must-see. It’s more complex and nuanced than the Hunger Games, which I enjoyed. Although watching this violence for entertainment makes me wonder if we are betraying the spirit of the story (which condemns a barbaric society for doing the same), it wasn’t glorified or gratuitous. They’ve done a good job.

Learning

I’ll admit. I first opened this video because the Star Trek characters in the preview slide set my nerd-y senses tingling. Cute. But that wasn’t really the point in the end.

The point is pretty profound: the power of Empathy to transform the world. Roman Krznaric gave me a lot of food for thought. Plus the animations make it fun to watch.

For those of us enmeshed in the debates of faith and politics, Anderson Campbell applies this same concept to church issues in his insightful article: Empathy and the Conservative/Progressive Theological Divide.

Parenting

Our latest, greatest parenting tool is the Parent TimeLock App. No more worrying about how much screen time our pre-teens are racking up, or trying to enforce limits in the middle of a busy day. We simply start the app for however much time we feel is reasonable at the beginning of the day and that is all the time they have to wallow in technology.

Cocooning

It’s the hap-happiest season of all! That’s right, the Holiday Firelog is now playing 24/7 at our house. Intellectually, I know it’s not a real fire, but it somehow warms up the room… and my heart. Plus, every half hour, when a disembodied hand reaches in to stir the logs, B gasps and points in excitement. We’re easily entertained.

Blogging

Earlier this month a story about our little country school went viral. Overnight we were infamous, subject of sensational news stories and misleading rants around the world. My response to this has become my most popular post to date. Nevertheless, I wish I hadn’t needed to write it: Hand Holding Ban, No Touch Play and the Real Story.

So here’s us, warming ourselves by a fake fire, learning empathy and trying to make room for everyone in our world.

what I'm into


What I’m Into September/October 2013

Insert “it’s-been-such-a-busy-fall” spiel here.

Every year seems to get more hectic (that could have something to do with us having more and more kids, but who’s to say). Here’s a few of the things that I’ve enjoyed in the past few months – maybe you will too!

Surfing

This is Nowhere – Written by and for fans of The Airborne Toxic Event, this website explores the music, the band members and the fan experience itself. This isn’t the kind of blog I’d usually read, but the writer is brilliant and good-looking and makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich. Also, he’s my husband. And a very talented writer, so it’s an interesting read for fans and non-fans alike.

Reading

This year I’m taking a Literary Journalism course. Yes, it is as intimidating and fascinating as it sounds. I’m learning a lot. And reading a lot. Two of my favourites so far… Martha Gellhorn was the first female war correspondant during WWII, sadly overshadowed by her husband Ernest Hemingway, because she is one of the most brilliant writers I’ve ever read. Wiliam Least Heat Moon writes about his travels across America, with such poetry and humour and insight, that I can’t help but reread sentences several times as I go.

For lighter fare, I enjoyed Rhoda Janzen’s sequel Mennonite Meets Mr. Right (also sold as “Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?”). Her first book is definitely my favourite, but her humour and delightful descriptions make it easy to enjoy this follow up about her return to faith.

Watching

Seven Up, Seven Plus Seven, 21 Up… – I’ve become quite enamored with the UP Series documentaries on Netflix. In 1964 a British filmmaker interviewed a group of 7 year-olds from different class and educational backgrounds. There is some repetition between each film, but stick with them. Each one is such an individual and I love to see how their lives unfold. This is my kind of realty show.

Marvels Agents of Shield – It’s not life-changing science fiction, but it’s a solid weekly adventure. I can’t explain the dorky appeal of mild mannered, middle aged Agent Phil Coulson, but I’m thrilled to see him alive again. So far, this has the bones of a decent series, especially for Avengers fans.

Digital Parenting

I’ve explained this little trick to so many parents, teachers and babysitters lately. If you are the kind of adult who is willing to hand your technology over to a child, Guided Access is a must. It allows you to open an app for a child on any iDevice, then lock it, so they can play it, but nothing else (no “exploring” your iPhone/Pod/Pad, no deleting apps, no making phone calls/texts, no cranking the volume up…).

Here’s how: Go to Settings. Under “General” you’ll find “Accessibility.” Turn “Guided Access” on, then choose your 4 digit passcode. From now on, when you want to start Guided Access, triple click the home button, then press “start.” When you’re finished, triple click again, enter your passcode and “end” Guided Access. Simple and it saves a lot of headaches.

Geeking Out

Am I doubly geeky for enjoying this? The Star Wars version of Myers-Briggs personality profiles. I happen to be Obi-wan Kenobi. Not Ewan McGregor’s version, but CLASSIC Obi-wan. Living a contemplative life in the desert, wise, gentle, parental, with enough life left in him to lob the occasional one-liner. I’ll take it.

If you’ve forgotten the categories are: Introvert/Extrovert, Sensing/Intuiting, Feeling/Thinking and Judgement/Perception.

star_wars_mbti

Writing

I’ve taken the plunge. Right before the Oct 31st midnight deadline, I joined NaNoWriMo. No, that’s not another geek thing. It’s “National Novel Writing Month,” and every year about 200,000 writers (well-established to just starting out, kids to seniors, on every topic you can imagine) pledge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words, from beginning to end, during the month of November. It’s about digging into the process and actually finishing something. It’s rough. It’s intense. It’s exciting. Every year several authors polish up their draft and publish an actual novel out of it. This year, I’m trying. That’s it. I don’t even care if it’s complete rubbish, I want to dig in. Also, not sure how I’m going to fit it in, but I think it has something to do with not watching t.v. or surfing the internet (or vacuuming).

So here’s me, where blogging might be a little light this month, but that doesn’t mean I’m being lazy.

 

Linking up with leighkramer.com again for this edition of What I’m Into…

what I'm into


What I’m Into July/August 2013

Back-to-school outfits have been donned. Backpacks have been filled. First day butterflies have been calmed.

Summer is officially over.

Here’s a look back at a few of the things I was into this summer:

Activities

  • swimming with ALL the cousins
  • pretending I’m flying on the AtmosFear ride at Playland
  • playing Science World games with my big kids (especially Glen)
  • dandelion bouquets
  • flying kites and dancing with ribbons on the beach
  • rainbow sorbet
  • homemade burgers straight off the BBQ
  • being woken up on rare sleep-in days with enthusiastic hugs and screams of “Look! It’s Mama! Look! Mama’s here!”

Music

I kept Gang of Rhythm by Walk Off The Earth on repeat all summer. It’s catchy and whimsical and makes us all dance. Except for Glen.

Books

51kgV8bTDiL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU15_The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill is the first time I have strongly recommended a book I haven’t read all the way through. Not because I didn’t have time or didn’t want to, but because my heart just couldn’t take it. The main character Aminata feels so real and her story so sad and, worst of all, so true, that it wrecks me. This particular story of abduction and slavery is set many years ago, but is still happening all over the world. This book is beautifully written and a compelling read, if you can stand it.

My favourite light reading for summer was romance novels by Debbie Macomber. They are predictable, sappy and extraordinarily prolific, which doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but when it comes to mindless indulgence, it really is. I always know what I’m getting with one of these novels and I can finish it in a couple of hours. If you’re looking for something smut-free and easy to read, as opposed to great literature and deep thoughts, she’s your gal.

51KfyeRqnyL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU15_Hold Onto Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate has been on my shelf for a while. The title of this book is so alarmist. I wondered if it would be a whole lot of hand wringing and reactionary fear mongering. It is. But it’s also full of good advice and psychologically sound insights. Every time and culture has its weaknesses – this book deals with one of ours: peer orientation and parental alienation. Ultimately, I’m totally on board with the style of parenting they promote, if not in agreement with every single point. As they say, “the secret of parenting is not in what a parent does but rather who the parent is to a child.” If we establish strong relationship, we can parent intuitively and instinctively, and much more effectively. Not an easy read, but worth slogging through.

Blogs

Simple Mom is exactly what it sounds like: a blog for Moms about keeping life simple. I’m always looking for ways to declutter my life and soul, so I appreciate the practical and helpful posts.

I found a new hobby: reading the winning entries from writing contests. Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry are my favourite. I like CBC Writes and Literal Latte when I’m looking to feel more “intellectual and literary” (see above re: fluffy romance novels).

Movie

We went to see it because there was nothing else that would work with babysitting. I was skeptical, but The Heat totally won me over. The language is SO bad. The plot is thin. But somehow it was just what I needed. Melissa McCarthy is comedic gold!

TV

After watching Done the Impossible, a documentary about the rabid fandom of Joss Whedon’s show Firefly, I felt compelled to re-watch the one brilliant season and force my husband to sit through the movie Serenity. This is MY show. I LOVE it. All caps – LOVE. I’m not sure I can even put into words why. The intriguing premise, the witty dialogue, the complex characters, the strange and beautiful world they inhabit, the acting, the underdogs triumph against all odds trope… It’s the best that science fiction has to offer! In fact, if you’re wondering where the title of my blog comes from… well, watch the movie to find out.

Sadly, my husband doesn’t “get it.” What is wrong with him? Fortunately, he has many other fine qualities.

I also started rewatched Sherlock (BBC) in eager anticipation of the third season. The acting. The tension. The British accents. What’s not to love?

Space channel started reruns of Castle, a cop show starring Nathan Fillion (of Firefly fame) and some other people who I barely notice. He’s a crime novelist shadowing a beautiful NYPD detective whom he is not-so-secretly in love with. Nothing profound, but it’s funny and entertaining. Also, I love having a whole season on PVR to watch at my leisure.

So here’s me, thrilled to be back to our normal routine, but sure I’ll miss the “free time” I had this summer, now that my school starts as well. This fall I’ll be taking “Literary Journalism” – not quite sure what it is exactly, but the syllabus looks fascinating. And intimidating. I’m going to get SO far behind on my Castle episodes.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer for

what I'm into


What I’m Into (June 2013)

June.

Second only to Christmas as the busiest time of the year. Also like December, a time in life I appreciate the most AFTER it’s over. At the time it felt like an unending whirlwind of dance rehearsing/essay writing/house guesting/field tripping/thank you noting/routine busting crazy… and you know how I feel about routine.

In retrospect, it was all good. Not in the dopey Rastafarian way, but a deep down, life affirming, good-for-me month. It’s possible I hold a liiiiiittle too tightly to that routine after all.

So, what made June amazing?

A not-totally-perfect hip hop routine

One that depressed C, my perfectionist hip hopper, but made me so proud I cried. It was awesome! And maybe parents are supposed to think that, like she says. But more likely, it was thinly veiled genius, just beginning to emerge. Not to mention ADORABLE (but don’t tell her I said that).

Beauty and the Beast, ballet style

With L as the dog, the stove, a dish and an angry townsman… amazing production all around, but the highlight is always seeing this glamorous woman-child on stage doing such beautiful, complex, graceful things that I barely recognize her.

Cousins

This was a month of cousins. My baby sister had another baby (something I’m still wrapping my brain around) – little cousin Marcos to increase the testosterone load in the fam. Beyond beautiful and way too far away.

We saw our “in town” cousins a few times and reaffirmed that my god-daughter is one of my son’s favourite people in the world. Cousins make the most convenient friends!

Speaking of, one of my favourite cousins came to stay. Growing up, she was the sister I actually wanted. Her two oldest kids came along and I’m pretty sure mine feel the same way. S was delighted to have a big boy with tons of energy to chase and wrestle all day! My city kids were also dazzled by tales of 4H and bear hunts, horrified by an attempt to bring possum road-kill home (“but it was fresh,” he said, bewildered by our reaction) AND impressed when he took on a local bully with geography riddles (see: you may be a homeschooler when…). Meanwhile, the oldest girl-cousin and C have the same symbiotic, silly-fun, picking-the-friendship-right-up-without-missing-a-beat chemistry that Janis and I have. Honestly, cousins make the best friends!

Books

One of the last books for my Children’s Lit course, Awake and Dreaming by Kit Pearson is a very contemporary type of book – messy and gritty and strangely compelling. I can’t decide to recommend it in spite of, or because of, the weird plot twists. It’s a little bit heartbreaking, but beautifully so.

After all that FUN reading for my course, I decided it was time for a Good-For-Me book. I choose something outside my usual box, a memoir about addiction and the spiritual side of recovery. Heather Kopp is one of my all-time favourite bloggers, so I figured Sober Mercies would at least be palatable. As it turns out… I couldn’t put it down. I read it in 24 hours and I’m already planning to read it again. I was completely drawn into her story and her vulnerability and her humor… and guess what, it really was Good-For-Me. Even though I’m a different brand of broken, I can definitely relate.

Blog

No time to peruse all the great blogs out there? Me neither. 3 Things for Mom has a guest poster almost every day with a Truth, a Tip and a Find. It’s a quick and easy way to sample new writers and new ideas.

App

songzaSongza is for those of us too lazy (smart and efficient) to make our own playlists. It has every style of music I could think of, categorized by mood or activity or even time of day. I love the Working/Studying (no lyrics) playlists – Classical for studying and Epic Film Scores for writing dramatic position papers. Headbands and Legwarmers: 80s Workout while I fold laundry. Coast Guard Motivational Mix while I mow the lawn (every cheesy song you can think of from Eye of the Tiger to Chariots of Fire). Mom-friendly Pop/Rock for a BBQ with the in-laws.

Video

Another thing I felt compelled to look into, since Kristen Howerton was one of the first bloggers I ever followed. Glad I did… as I’m always needing to find this fine line. When is social media a healthy diversion; when is it a wasteful distraction?

So here’s me, June survivor, and dare I say, thriver. Bring on the lazy summer days!

what I'm into


What I’m Into (May 2013)

This month I started a Children’s Literature course two nights a week. I absolutely love it. Also, I absolutely underestimated the workload. When they say “2 month intensive,” they mean it! May is all about juggling my normal life and reading stories I love at a frenetic pace. Altogether, not a bad month.

Books

LWMy favourite so far is Little Women (prequel to my VERY favourite book Little Men). Unlike most of the young punks in my class, I was raised on Alcott. They ask, “what’s the point?” and my soul weeps. Seriously, I like explosions and dramatic plot twists as much as the next gal, but sometimes a good story finds the magic in the everyday.

A close runner-up is one of those great read-aloud stories Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Before Johnny Depp, before Gene Wilder, Charlie stood on his own two feet and, as usual, the book is better than the movie. Plus, as a parent, I gotta appreciate any adventure where the victory goes to the best behaved child. Can’t wait to read it to the boy someday!

The Secret Garden can still hold its own. Mary Lennox is a wonderfully bratty and damaged character; you can’t help but root for her.

Right now, I’m reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for the 2,738th time. I never get tired of it. I doubt even literary analysis can mar it for me. We’ll see…

Video

This is my mantra this month. This is brilliant.

This is Water.

Music

Walk Off the Earth does some amazing covers. I prefer their version most of the time. Now an original song has made my playlist (and every radio station around; I’m not exactly cutting edge here). Playing it until everyone around me is sick of it… Red Hands.

Television

So… I don’t have much time to watch TV this month, but I did watch a few episodes of my Dad’s new favourite, Duck Dynasty. It’s pretty much the direct opposite of all those Real Housewife/Jersey Shore/Keeping up with the Beautiful People reality shows out there.

These are the rednecks my father aspires to be. If only mom would let him grow that manly beard… but alas she insists he put his teeth in and remove his raggedy truckers cap in the presence of company. And in bed I suspect. Surrounded by females all his life, I know he was relieved to score three sons-in-law and even a couple grandsons. Sadly for him, there’s not a single good-ole-boy in the mix. He’s found some kindred spirits on Duck Dynasty and I must admit I find them both hilarious and comfortingly familiar. It’s like spending some time with my Dad.

Movie

Again… not much time. But no self-respecting Sci-Fi dork would miss the new Star Trek movie. There are enough subtle references to the campy original to mollify hard-core Trekkies (Tribbles!), but not so much that my way-too-cool-to-love-Trek husband couldn’t follow. You don’t have to be a nerd to love this film (but it helps)!

Jury’s out as to whether Benedict Cumberbatch makes a better Sherlock or Trek super villain. I think he could probably play Mary Poppins and still blow us away with his intense brilliance. Wicked!

So here’s me, and the highlight of May… drumroll please… as of yesterday, I’M AN AUNT AGAIN! Welcome Baby Charlie!!

A link-up with Hopeful Leigh

what I'm into


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