Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas in the air

We've enjoyed the last few weeks of Christmas preparation--A couple of weeks ago, we chose a large tree for our living room, and a tiny tree for the kid's room-- Bry's parents joined us. It was a beautiful time together-- at the local Christmas Tree farm--they even threw in a few sprigs of holly---

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I love nature's insistence on redemption. Everywhere I look, I see rebirth, life from death, redemption within and without darkness. There is always life, everywhere. Humanity is teeming with life. And we are life to oneanother, in the midst of hardship, sadness and loss. We help carry the grief, side-by-side.

Alethea is fascinated by dolphins lately. A friend shared with me that when a mother dolphin looses her baby, the other dolphins press their bodies against the grieving mother and carry her through the water looking for her young. Beautiful.

This week, we were slow at the hospital, so I was able to leave my shift early.

The weather was gorgeous outside: brisk with an Autumn-laced breeze. As I started to drive I felt drawn toward my old University, where Bryan and I met.

I parked on a dirt road and walked through the 40 acres behind the school. I retraced my steps from years ago: the slight turn at the bridge, up toward the old Rugby field, the smoothed stump where Meredith and I used to curl up and read books on warm days. Memories flooded around me as I walked toward the Science building where I spent hours and hours learning Biology, Anatomy, Chemistry. A few lights were on in the Nursing faculty area, so I knocked on office doors and caught up on current news of the nursing program.

I was amazed to visit old haunts and see renovated areas with hardwood floors and gorgeous furniture. The nasty, grungy old "lower caf" had an Ethical Addictions Coffee House and Jugo Juice franchise in it. I could hardly believe how much the school has grown.

Afterwards, I walked back through the forest, in the pitch black (I forgot it goes completely dark by 5 pm now!) and made it to my truck.

My heart was full with memories and warmth as I remembered my four years of University. I experienced a lot of joy and deep friendship during those years. Hardship and grief were also near at hand. And as I meandered through the trails, touching trees I remember from years ago, I realized how much redemption and growth has taken place in me, in my life, in the lives of those around me, those I met during those 4 years.

I felt grateful for the hardship and the loss, the joy and friendship. I felt grateful for the redemption that happens, in all things.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Know Thyself

I've been asking myself questions. Some of the questions have arrived uninvited. And others are part of my desire to become more mindful of my motives, feelings and reactions. Here are a few:

*If you had to think of one word that would be a great complement to you, what would it be?

*What is a new hobby or interest you would like to incorporate into your life in the next year?

*What is a belief you held 5 years ago that you no longer hold?

*What do you feel is your unique gift to the world?

Asking myself questions, opens a part of my soul with the same intensity that glimpsing this picture evokes. I am free to change, to grow and to become more of my true self. In this picture of St. Francis, I sense a man who feels fully freed by his Creator to let his soul fly.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Brotherhood Of Man

My favorite bands, for years and years, have been U2 and The Innocence Mission. I've been asked a few times, that if I could choose two books and two albums, what would they be? I would have to choose The Joshua Tree (U2) , and Glow/We Walked in Song (Innocence Mission). And for books: No Man is an Island (Thomas Merton) and Here All Dwell Free (Gertrud Mueller Nelson).

Here is a beautiful live performance of "Brotherhood of Man".

Autumn Moments

This is a picture of Alley at our recent Tour of the Apple Barn and Pumpkin Patch. The top picture is of Michelle and I on the Hay Ride with our families.
We've enjoyed hiking in the nearby mountains, along the rushing rivers. This hike was in Golden Ears, on the Lower Falls Trail. The kids hiked slowly and in meandering directions. So, we took the path for an hour or so and then relaxed by the water, played in the sand and skipped rocks.

This is a picture of a recent "Daddy and Cherubs" campout. They loved roasting marshmallows and spending hours throwing rocks into the river.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back to the Center

I just returned home for a trip to Arizona. My loving husband, in his love, encouraged me to go, to reconnect with my center, my soul-land. He also encouraged me to completely enjoy time with dear friends, to soak it up and rest in it, to know that he and the kids would be just fine (and would probably have more fun anyway!).

In all of this: our traveling and experiencing life and changing, I realize how comforting and centering it is to know that I have Bryan in my life. He is the constant. We are ever and always circling out and recircling back into eachother's arms. And I find great solace in that.

You see, I have been struggling with the change in weather again. And since Arizona is so glorious and sunny, being in it again made me realize how "dampened" my personality becomes up here in the great dark north. I felt like a sleep walker when I got off the plane in Phoenix. Being in Arizona, lying in the sunshine, hiking in the Sedona Red Rocks, walking in the sunshine... I felt like I was suddenly "plugged in" to a power source.

I do confess that it was the company as well that contributed greatly to a general feeling of sunshine. But at least a portion of it seemed to be physical.

So, now that I am home and in my quiet northern abode, I am trying to recreate it all. I have a steaming mug of Earl Grey, precisely 5 candles lit and flickering around me, white christmas lights encircling the plant to my right and a small warm lamp beside me, lighting the screen as I type.

It is helping; I feel uplifted this morning. I realized that an important aspect of my sense of peace and well-being is the creation of a morning ritual. I have been very disciplined in my morning ritual over the years until recently. My life has been busy and full and I often fall into bed and stumble out of bed. But for the last week, in Arizona, I was rested, and drawn into another's morning rituals I could easily insert myself into.

My dear childhood friend Natalie has an incredible sense of ritual. And I realized how restful it was to be a part of. Returning home, I feel recharged to recreate rituals of my own that bring a sense of peace and centeredness to my days.

So, this is a beginning.

I want to write briefly about the events of the summer, and move on into the Fall and Winter. The 3rd Annual Feast Collective happened in August again this year. It was a momentous time of connection between friends, sharing of music and art, good food, laughter and warmth around the fire. We added a Sweat Lodge and Women's Story Circle this year. And of course the Tie-dying and rock painting for the kids. The Traditions continue to grow and expand. We already look forward to next year.

In September, I traveled to Toronto for a Business Conference with Arbonne. While I was there, we stayed in the Sheraton Downtown where the Celebrities in town for the Toronto International Film Fest were staying. Just for fun, I'll tell you who I saw: Michael J Fox, Chris Nash, Sigourney Weaver, the cast from the 70's Show...and a bunch of other people I didn't recognize.

Bryan traveled to Boston for a week of training in his field of work as an Internet Affliate and Writer. Followed by a trip to Los Angeles to record his first CD. News on that to come...

We have started homeschooling Alethea through Summit Learning Center. We enrolled her in the Open School program and it has been incredible. Summit gives me Modules of Curriculum to do each month. They provide extensive support and programming through the Art Smarts Program. So far, she has been involved in Yoga, Circus Kids Gymnastics, and Tractor ride and tour of the Pumpkin and Apple Farm. On the horizon, we have celtic dancing, pottery, iceskating and way more than I can drive her to in a week!

I really enjoy having the curriculum this year as I begin. I enjoy the structure it provides. We often do work beyond the book, but it gives us a foundational groundwork for what she needs to learn this year. For additional reading lessons, I am using the "Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading" and she loves it!

To finish off, I want to continue:

Today, I am thankful for:

23-Toast and tea by candlelight
24-The warmth of the season upon us
25-A reawakened love for cooking and entertaining friends over bowls of soup

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Music for the Soul:Woodsong

Over the last week or so, we've been exploring new music: Feist, Bon Iver, Craig Cardiff.  And over the summer, we returned to our favorite grassroots music festival called Woodsong Music Festival.   

We camped for 4 days beneath the Westcoast cedars and pines. And listened to almost non-stop live music. The kids enjoyed the Art Tent and created beautiful things: birdhouses, painted rocks, beaded jewelry. Each night, they showed an outdoor movie on the screen; families nestled together in fleece blankets and sipped on hot cocoa and spiced tea.  

This was our third summer at Woodsong, and we recognized return visitors, exclaimed at "how much the kids have grown!" and generally reconnected with ourselves, eachother and new faces I look forward to seeing next year.

Burke and Barbara Thomas are the creators of Woodsong. 11 years ago, they decided to open their gorgeous piece of paradise land up for an honour-system based music event.  They don't charge and they trust guests to camp responsibly, pick up after ourselves and donate funds out of the goodness of our hearts. They go to incredibly effort to make it memorable and extremely well done.  We love it.  Each morning, they offer a potluck-topping breakfast.  For lunch and dinners, we all bring our own concoctions to cook on the fleet of outdoor cooking equipment already set up for us.

I highly recommend Woodsong. It is a good-for-the-soul weekend that captures the heart of Woodstock and other music festivals, but without the drugs and junk that we wouldn't want our kids around.  Perfect combo, in my opinion.

19-I am thankful for the uninhibited way my son sings like Bob Dylan
20-The chocolate covered almonds on sale at Sav-On Foods today.
21-The sound of the ticking clock in a quiet (kids asleep!!) house tonight.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Full Summer Rapids

I came to this familiar space to begin again this morning. And I feel slightly overwhelmed by all the catching up I need to do.  I will begin with a list, and I will slowly (over the next month or so) work through the various events of the summer, sprinkled between the daily reflections.

Woodsong Music Festival
The Feast Collective
Toronto and International Film Festival
Boston Convention
Los Angeles Recording
Summit Learning Center
Raw Food Diet Adjustments
A Hospital Move

Most of this happened in August and early September! Can we say "plate too full?" Oh my.

More to come.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thrift Shop Find

I love thrift shop, treasure-hunting.  I found all of this for 5$ at the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) Thrift Shop.  Because of our busy spring, we are cleaning out our home and life NOW, at the peak of summer. We are slightly delayed, I know, but it feels fantastic nonetheless, to simplify and to cull out some of what we trip over unnecessrily.

Through a dear friend (Bree), I was exposed to the tradition of clothing swaps. We've had a few over the last two years and in August, my sister is hosting one at her place. I am so excited! I spent sometime last night going through my closet and putting in bags anything I no longer wear.

In a clothing swap, a group of people get together, bring clothes and take clothes. There is no limit, just a chance to "swap" for free.  Anything left over is donated to a local women's shelter. We sometimes incorporate household items and shoes, anything that is still good and useable, a treasure for someone who wants or needs it. I actually just found a LINK to a huge clothing swap site that inspires me to grow the tradition to become a city-wide event.

But in the meantime, it is fun to get together with friends and family for an evening and return home with a refreshed wardrobe.

Today, I am thankful for:

16-the deep heat sunshine that represents Divine love to me
17-a wonderful, restful family trip to Vancouver Island and an afternoon at Willows Beach
18-the music of Martyn Joseph.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Time to Turn in

This picture is the view from a YURT bunk during our road trip last summer.  It was a beautiful night, especially once the stars came out.

It is night and I am returning late from a business event that went fantastically well!

I was ravenous when I walked in the door and wanted nothing but chocolate. But luckily, we are out of chocolate and I decided to stay Raw instead.

I just drank down a huge glass of Green Smoothie.  It was basically two handfuls of fresh spinach, two bananas, a tangerine and a few chunks of pineapple, some ice and water.  Yum! It was actually really good and extremely filling.

We are enjoying our raw food endeavor. However, a few times during the last week, we have been overcome with a desire to smell food cooking!  It's strange that on a raw food diet, you never really smell food.  Fruits and veggies have their natural scent, but there's nothing like cooking with spices and bubbling goodness.  We do miss it.

Bry laughed at us today. We were chop, chop, chopping away at fruits and veggies (cuz that's what you do on a Raw Food Diet!) and he said " We are so crazy!  We weren't even vegetarian and now we are Raw Vegan!  You'd think we would transition a little bit and go vegetarian first. Crazy!"

It's true; we are a little crazy.

It is late tonight and I need to awake early, so I will keep this post short.  

As I sleepily end the day, I am thankful for:

13-my husband's good-looking self, so easy to look at day in and day out.

14-the curl of my Soul-baby's hair, just at the nape of his neck.

15-the beauty of a dear friend's grad school accomplishment as a bonafide (publishable) poet.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

At the End of the day

My shift at the hospital was a gong show today. We were running in circles, working over one another, flailing around as one odd thing after another flew our way. It was a WEIRD shift.  

We are moving hospitals in August.  What an enormous job! There are actually businesses that move hospitals, that's what they do. And ours is about to move.  The building our current hospital is in is a condemned building.  A friend who works with a heating and cooling company says the company no longer feels safe sending repair men into the bowels of the building to fix what needs fixing.  I suppose we need a new hospital.

All this change on the horizon makes change-lovers giddy and change-resisters downright grouchy. Today, I encountered some grouchy.  The adjustment in staffing means that we sometimes (in the transition period) have an over- or an under-abundance of workers. Today was a over-abundance of workers placed in odd shift slots. We had a bunch of us, clamoring around for who does what, but we were only booked half the day with no replacements. Crazy!

Anyhow, enough about that.  It just means I am glad to be home, and glad to lay my head on my pillow for the night-

And at the end of the day, all is well. The kidlets are curled in cocoons in their bunkbed, smelling like sweet bath wash. And tomorrow is another day to breathe and shine.


Today I am Thankful For:

10-the pure miracle of childbirth
11-the opportunity to see the tender (lovable) underbelly of a cantakerous co-worker
12-the essential oil smell in my home after positively green clean!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Body and Soul

The health of Body and Soul are incredibly intertwined.  My soul feels enlivened and refreshed when my body is well-cared for. 

A dear friend and I are doing Body-For-Life together. My husband and I did it last winter and I felt tremendous afterwards.  I had some extra Soul-baby weight to lose and was able to drop 30 pounds with the 12-week system!

And so, I begin again, with another 15 pounds that I would like to convert to lean muscle.  I am always amazed how incredible it feels to work out, to sweat and get my heart pumping from exercise.  The inertia before beginning is so hard to overcome, but when I do I feel so energized.

The system revolves around a 6 day/ week workout schedule that alternates between intensive cardio and weight training.  We are commited to 6 days a week and are having a blast!  It is so helpful to have a workout buddy.

We have just completed day 4 of going raw. I have an upcoming post about that with pictures of some of our raw meals. The main motivation is to provide some relief for my husband's intestinal issues.  We have been trying a lot of cleansing diets and dairy free/gluten free sorts of diets with no relief. So, we are hopeful that the Raw Diet will help to define the underlying issue for him.

Today I am thankful for:

7-friends I can count on for spiritual and practical support and sharing.
8-the delicious afternoon nap we all took on this rainy day
9-the chance to see my friend's new business downtown and to watch it grow for her.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Soul Friend

The Smell of Sunshine

Early this week, I awoke to sunshine at 5 am!  My heart was lifted toward the window and I took in the scene and scent of sunshine.  

The smell of sunshine is to me like the smell of a sweet, sweaty baby. My Soul-baby, just two years old, still smells like goodness itself. And when he is sweaty from playing outside, I nestle my nose in his neck and take a long lung-fill of sweetness.  

I try to remember in those moments to stop, and to remember. Because he will soon be a stinky teenager dropping nasty-smelling hockey gear on my washing machine. And I'll be washing crusty socks and cleaning pee from missed streams around the base of the toilet. Believe me, I know. I grew up with all brothers and they are stinky! 

To continue this morning, I want to give thanks for three more things:

4-the strange pitch of bird song outside my window: cheerful and mournful at once.
5-a beautiful new friend who is committing to 6 days/week of Body-For -Life workouts with me.  
6- our decision to try a Raw Food Diet for 30 days together (thanks to Matt and Sara)

Today is an exciting day for me and my 4 year old girl. We are officially beginning our journey of  homeschooling and have enrolled with Summit Learning Centre. With my personality, it is the best combination of things.  

Enrolling with Summit means we get generous funding from the government for curriculum, internet costs, a membership to science world. We can participate in the Art Smarts program twice a week, join groups for field trips, have direct access to teacher support, and work together with a resource person to create a learning plan especially for my girl. I give myself permission to choose a different approach as I continue next year, but to begin, structure is wonderful!

I love having a schedule to work from.  Baselines and goals give me direction and peace of mind. And knowing what we must do (in regards to hitting milestones), we can then do what we want to do (touring the organic goat dairy for the afternoon or visiting the Vancouver Aqarium).

This afternoon, I meet with my resource teacher to pick up books and curriculum and all sorts of goodies. It will be like Christmas!

I was given a list of books to read through a homeschool association. Quite a few books by Thomas Armstrong look good. I would like to start with:
Awakening Your Child's Genius and 7 Kinds of Smart. 

Today, I have three areas of focus: a business related visit,  spiritual direction and a meeting with my Summit resource teacher.

So much about regaining balance for me is limiting the amount of things I think I can accomplish in a day!  

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Centering Wheel

It is nearly impossible to create a strong vessel from an un-centered lump of clay. And in many ways, that is what I have been this winter and spring. I have experienced a great deal of spiritual confusion and questioning.  The darkness of the Northwest crashed in on me mid-January and I was weak to hold it back.  My knees wobbly beneath the weight, I walked slowly, one foot in front of the other. 

 In the midst, we experienced great loss and tragedy, death has been near and around us.  Emotions have bubbled to the top of my cup, running over without explanation: confusion, anger, fear, discontentment. 

I have missed this space, visiting mostly to settle into the writing of other blogging friends. Overwhelmed by all that has happened, unable to feel centered to create peace out of chaos in my heart.

Writing is my centering wheel, my steady revolving energy, ever-widening and centering: a foundation for creating. 

And so I begin again,  with gratefulness and fearless love.  My hands are open, willing to receive and to share. 

Tonight, I am listening to Jon Foreman , the lead singer for Switchfoot.
My husband and I stumbled upon his incredible 4-disc CD: Spring and Summer, Fall and Winter.  The combination of  earthy, honest voice, steady guitar, haunting cello, and ethereal background piano is exquisite. We are drinking in the melodies, a backdrop for our last few days. 

On the album "winter" there's a song called "somebody's baby" that always awakens deep compassion in me.   The words are basically, "she's somebody's baby, somebody's baby girl..." And tonight as I listen, I am pulled from selfish preoccupation to think about the pain of the last weeks, the pain in the world around me that nearly crushes me somedays. 

We are all babies, somebody's babies. I have wandered the downtown eastside of Vancouver's streets saying something similiar in my heart.  The brokenness is palpable: drug-laced arms laying listless beside unconscious human forms. Young girls smoking joints in top thigh skirts, extending a provocative swing of leg at corner-cruising cars. 

They are babies, somebody's babies.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I assisted a friend as she grieved the loss of her husband to suicide. We were there just after he made the choice to leave. The vision of him hanging by the neck from a chain, gone from this world, nearly crushed us. It was the ultimate vision of powerlessness. He is somebody's baby. He is nestled into his Creator Father's arms, finally at peace. Creator God's baby.

Tonight as I reflect, I nestle into the safe arms of Creator God, and I rest.  I am centered when I relax into a speed of wheel I cannot create myself. It is the centrifugal force of Divine love, drawing me out of myself and thus into myself more completely.

This week, I received three gifts.  And in this way, I will start my gratefulness journal of 1000 things. I heard of this idea from Ann Voskamp at Holy Experience

1-re-finding my spiritual core book No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton.
2-a loving card from my husband "i'll be there with my umbrella..."
3-a gift from a st.matthew's friend Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas.

Tonight is like shrapnel on the page, a smattering of thoughts and musings from this slowly centering heart.  Before I sleep, I want to record some of Merton's  fresh thoughts that awakened my spirit 15 years ago--

"I consider that the spiritual life is the life of man's real self,
 the life of that interior self whose flame is so often allowed 
to be smothered under the ashes of anxiety and futile concern.
We cannot find ourselves within ourselves, but only in others, 
yet at the same time before we can go out to others we must first 
find ourselves. We must forget ourselves in order to become
 truly conscious of who we are."

And that about says it all--

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


We have some dear visitors arriving tomorrow in their veggie-powered RV. I am excited to welcome Matt and Sara Janssen  to our bungalow in Mission.  

If you haven't heard of them yet, please take a look at their websites:

They will be with us for a few days and we are very excited to meet them in person and to hear of their stories from the road--

Monday, April 07, 2008

If You Are Ever in Trouble... my husband. He will find and protect you.

It all happened on Saturday night. I arrived on the labour ward, ready for my 8-hour evening shift that went from 15:30-23:30 pm. It was an incredible shift of learning alongside 4 amazing midwifes.

The family I was linked with for the shift, was in rip-roaring labour and had placed two calls to their midwife without contacting her. They left messages and called the back-up. They again left messages and phoned a third back-up midwife, who arrived shortly after with a student.
In the meantime, the first two midwives received the phone messages and arrived as well! So, it was me and 4 midwives in one room. It was basically my heaven. And the one in charge happened to be the one and only Anne Barkum.

Anne is basically an angel. She's an Orthodox nun by vocation, and midwife by trade. And she manages to blend it all into a powerful mix of strength, love and sensational labour support. She was my midwife for both children, along with her wonderful clinic partner at the time, Sarah Lawrence. Sarah is now raising and homeschooling her three beautiful children and has become a dear friend of mine.

So, back to the birth. It was a beautiful birth, and the energy in the room buzzed with strength, SO MUCH strength. There were many helping hands, so I mostly absorbed the beauty. I did a bit of charting, filled in the spaces when a wash cloth was needed and grabbed a dry towel for the freshly born babe.

When it was all over, and the new addition was bundled and sent home with his parents, I sat at the desk to chart before the end of my shift.

I started to chat with a fellow nurse I hadn't seen in awhile and before I knew it, the clock struck twelve. So, I scurried into my street clothes and hit the parking lot.

About halfway home, I became ravenous. My mind wandered to the then empty fridge and I realized I needed to stop and grab a bite to eat. I was so hungry!! The "OPEN" sign on Boston Pizza was gleaming bright, so I parked and ducked in for a plate of nachos.

I considered calling Bry to let him know where I was, but figured he was asleep in bed and I decided not to disturb him.

Around 2 am, I pulled up to a fully lit house. The curtains were drawn back, and through the front windows, I saw the worried frame of my husband, phone held to his head with earnest.

Oh NO.

With wide eyes and a worried tone he asked "Where have you been?!" He had a police file open on me, he had asked the security officer at the hospital parking lot to scour around for our truck and/or my body. He phoned my collegues on night shift to inquire when I had left. It was funny and horrible all at the same time.

I gave him a huge hug, APOLOGIZED and thanked him for such concern. I must admit that I DID feel awfully loved and a wee bit silly. OH MY. I phoned the nursing unit to assure them I was alive. They had a good laugh when I told them the story, and they grounded me from late night Boston Pizza runs.

What a night it was!
(photo credit: flickr pshab)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Returning home

About a month back, around Easter and Lent, I decided to take some time away from blogging. In many ways, it has been a good time, to quietly reflect on my own. I needed a space away to let deep lessons absorb and settle down inside of me. But I have missed it. And I am again reentering this world with fresh vision--

For Easter this year, we traveled to San Antonio, Texas to be with my family. My parents drove over from Arizona and my younger brother drove from Baylor University where he is in his first year.

We had a wonderful time on my brother and sister-in-law's 5 acre hobby farm. We admire them a great deal and enjoyed the chance to peek in as they homeschool 5 kids, tend a flourishing garden, nurture pregnant goats, gather eggs, set their cow free for grazing. They lead a hand's-on life, and we enjoyed dipping into it (and basking in the sunshine!)

We had a wonderful time. But for the sake of story, I have to say that getting there was not as pleasant. In fact, we felt locked in a surreal twilight zone that took us a few days to recover from.

You see, we had heard hints of the US changing their border laws. But because we don't have a TV and don't see regular news, we didn't know of their recent "crack down". In February, they issued a "no-grace" policy stating that anyone without a passport, no matter their age, would be banned from traveling on an airplane into the US from any other country.

My husband and I have passports, but we only have birth certificates for the kids. Driving across the border is no issue with birth certificates, so we didn't think it would be a problem. In fact, I had mentioned to the booking clerk when I booked tickets, that my kids had birth certificates and she assured me it would be no problem--

Well, when we arrived in Vancouver to board, we were told the kids could not fly. For about 30 mintues, it all seemed tragic. I mean, my entire family was waiting for us, had driven for hours, my brother had booked off days from his busy medical clinic. My eyes were beginning to well up as I realized what was happening. Karumba!

And then, when it seemed impossible, an angel of an airline clerk did his magic (with the fastest typing fingers I've seen) and found us a flight out of Seattle for the next day. All without extra cost. One unfortunate issue was that he could only route us through Chicago with a 5 hour layover and change of plane. The other unfortunate issue was that the plane left Seattle the next morning at 6 am, which meant arriving at the airport at 4 :30 am.

But, we could get there! So we trundled on, reloaded out luggage and hit the highway south to Seattle.

But wait, it gets better-- (or bubbly or bulgy or bedraggled...)

We decided to sleep in a rather sketchy hotel and share a twin bed--four of us. It was already 60 bucks just to do that, and we couldn't imagine spending 80 for an extra bed. It was practically next door to the airport which meant a night of flashing lights and booming jet engines overhead. Needless to say, between the serenade and the jackknifing 2-year-old beside me, I got about an hour of sleep.

But again, we survived. We made the plane the next morning, groggy, but thankful, and turned our noses toward Chicago. When we arrived, we discovered a Spring blizzard brewing and a flight board full of cancelled flights in and out of O'Hare. Ours, thankfully was not cancelled, just delayed 6 hours. And on top of our 5 hour layover, we were in the Chicago airport for 11 hours.

But honestly, I can't complain. Because you know what? There was another family, in the good old Chicago airport play area, for 13 hours with 6 kids. One of which was a newly adopted baby girl from Vietnam. They were complete zombies functioning on extreme jet lag. Not only had they just flown from Vietnam, but they were delayed in Los Angeles and severely delayed in Chicago, and still had a flight to go!

The things we do in life. Oh my goodness.

After all that, we arrived in Texas and had a wonderful time. And our flight home was "normal", with no delays, and the kids slept almost the whole trip! Glorious. It all evens out in the end. It always seems to even out--

And now, we are home. And I am looking forward to Spring. And to catching up on the stories of the last month, here in this space--

If there are any lurkers out there, feel free to comment. If you don't have a blogger account, you can comment as "anonymous". I enjoy knowing you are out there--

photocredit: flickr-Steve Stone

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Pretending to Travel Abroad

My husband and I have a new tradition that helps keep the itchy travel bug at bay. The reality is that we need to be here, in one place, for a time. And even though the urge to move and shake and live in a hut in the Sahara drives me mad somedays, I need to find a way to be content HERE. Right?

So, here's our secret. We live in a city that connects with the metropolis of Vancouver by an express commuter train. For daily commuters, our new plan is not exciting in the least. But for non-commuters, it's downright exhilerating.
We live in the valley. And everyone around here knows that the city and valley folk are on different timeframes and wavelengths. Sometimes stepping out of one and into the other is like traveling abroad.

So, this is what we do. We buy a 19 dollar round trip ticket to Downtown Vancouver and we "commute" first thing in the morning. Except we don't go to work! We "travel" all day. The ticket covers our skytrain and bus fares and we are footloose and fancy free. We take a list of favorite bookstores, coffeeshops, music stores, thrift stores. And we explore the city until the last commuter train heads home in the evening.

So far, I have done it alone, and Bry has done it alone. I am scheming about a family excursion this summer when the beaches heat up.

It has taught us to look around for ways to make our current situation feel exciting and exotic, without going into debt for it. We have traveling gypsy blood, with a capital "T" and an urge to soar and fly like the eagle in the picture above.
This desire to explore surges on and on. We want to move into distant lands and onto furthermost shores. But, we also love to be here. So, our days in the big city take the edge off the wanderlust as we learn to create beauty in the everyday.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Don't Give Up

"You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)"

Don't give up
It's just the weight of the world
When your heart's heavy I...
I will lift it for you

Don't give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you I...
I will break it for you
Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved

Don't give up
Because you are loved
Don't give up
It's just the hurt that you hide
When you're lost inside I...
I will be there to find you

Don't give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you I...
I will shine to guide you
Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved

Don't give up
Because you are loved
You are loved

Don't give up
It's just the weight of the world
Don't give up
Every one needs to be heard
You are loved

(Josh Groban)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Colourful Bunch

For Valentine's Day this year, we decided to host a "colours party." A co-worker of mine came up with the idea (I think...there may be a social tradition I don't know about) and hosted one during New Year's Eve. Ever since hearing the idea, I have wanted to do one with our homegroup crew. So, we did it. And everyone really go into it!

I drew colours from a hat and assigned them to each guest. They came dressed entirely in their colour and also brought food to share in their colour. It was really fun to see the array of colour around the table. We had lime pudding, yellow peppers, purple olives and grapes, popcorn, blueberry yogurt, green pasta with pesto sauce and other spunky delicacies.

My sister-in-law owns a game called "True Colours" that we played. It's basically a "getting to know the real you" sort of game and it went over really well.

Toward the end of the night, we took turns answering questions in a personality test called the "animal in you". If you've never hearde of it, take a look at the website and see what animal you are most like. I find it insightful and fun to discuss as a group.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Miracle Everytime

Since Mid-December, I have been picking up night shifts on the maternity ward. We've decided to plan for one 12-hour shift a week. And to be honest, one is all I can handle while balancing my time with the kids and running my home business. I know I am not very old, but night shifts hit me differently than they used to, and it takes a couple of days to feel fully myself again.

All that aside, I love being back in the maternity-world of birthing and babies. Every birth is an exquisite miracle, again and again. I never get bored.

On my first shift back, we had a birth that started in tragedy. An older women, in her 40's, called in with some concerns. She had woken up to use the washroom and suddenly saw blood. Her due date was just around the corner, and she was starting to have mild contractions. Our triage nurse asked her to come in right away so we could make sure everything was alright.

About 15 minutes later, we received a phone call from an ambulance attendant. He reported that a car had slid on the icy-snowy roads and into the ditch. The woman inside was pregnant and afraid and said she was on the way to the hospital. She couldn't feel her baby moving and was in turmoil over the accident.

They brought her in immediately and she was sobbing. I received her into room 4 and quickly moved her into a bed. She kept asking over and over, "please, my baby. I need to hear my baby!" I grabbed the external fetal monitor to find a heartbeat. My hands were shaking and my heart felt twisted into a knot of grief. Tears were running down her face, her husband's face, MY face. It was emotional to say the least.

Suddenly, we heard it. The clear, cheerful tap of her baby's heart. She was perfectly fine, safe and secure inside the cozy walls of the womb, tucked away and kept from harm. The relief was audible as we let out pent-up collective breath and gave thanks in our hearts. And it turned out the blood was merely pre-labour preparation, and she was well into her 1st stage of childbirth, rounding the corner toward the moment when she would hold her baby in her arms.

In that moment of waiting, I remember thinking about the poignant promise held in the hope for a baby. There is nothing like it. The fresh spark that a new life is coming, a clean-slated soul, wide open to take in the world, to reveal once again, the grace-filled beginning of humanity. It is the first step to adulthood. The innocent other and sun-side of the cycle, the illumination of the shadow.

I read a quote once, "babies are such a nice way to start people". I love that. And I find that being in close contact with the "start" of us, keeps me hopeful about humanity. Somehow I am given these glimpses into how a crusty-cranky old man starts out. He is, inside it all, a suckling pinkness, soft and round, and the absolute fulfillment of someone's desire.

We are knit in love, strand by strand, in the pulsing warmth of womb. And then we enter, close-lidded and dramatic, in a heaving push of relief. There are no ordinary births. Just miracles everytime.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Task at Hand

Good 'ole curly-eyed Hooley's is a pub in Ottawa. And I've got to tell you that I felt like this Hooley-bird looks at around 9 am this morning. There are few things that drive me to want a stiff drink. And cleaning the oven is one of them. I can't stand cleaning a nasty, baked-on-food sorta oven. My eyes glaze over and I start to twitch slightly at the thought.

I have procrastinated since Christmas. Can you believe it? I baked the turkey this year, and decided to do it in a shallow lasagna pan with tin foil over the bird. Let me just say that I should invest in a bonafide roaster for next year.

By the time Christmas dinner rolled around, we were rolling in a smoke-filled cavern that used to be my kitchen. The pan drippings dripped right down and out of my oven, into the compartment beneath, creating a serious fire hazard.

I cleaned up the bulk of the compartment drippings.
But until this morning, I hadn't touched the poor oven. I've been baking muffins in my toaster oven, for goodness sake! Just to avoid the task.

So, this morning, I asked myself why I was procratinating. "Self", I said, "why the fuss? What's the big deal?" And I realized that it's not the dirty oven that galls me. It's the nasty oven cleaner I have used in the past that makes me gag and feel I have 90-year-old smoker's lungs with one inhalation. And so, me, myself and I, looked for an alternative.

I pulled out my new favorite (well, for the last two years) book on healthy household cleaning. It's called Clean House, Clean Planet. And I discovered that all I needed was baking soda, salt and hot water. In fact, it's a recipe called the "sleep it off" oven cleaning solution. It's a mixture of 1/4 cup salt and 3/4 cup baking soda, mixed into a paste with hot water.

Ideally, you slather on the paste at night, sleep, and then awake and start scrubbing. The baking soda acts as a solvent overnight and loosens the caked-on gunk. To scrape, I used a scouring pad, lots of paper towels and some steel wool.

And my oven has never looked better. And to be honest, it took no more than 15 minutes of good hardy scrubbing. All that procrastination for 15 minutes of work!

As I scrubbed, I started thinking about how easy it is to let things in life bubble over and gunk up. A negative attitude, thoughtless words, unrealistic expectations for myself or others, lack of joy or hope, can create a mess. The mess starts to rise and bubble over. And even a small amount, over time, accumulates into an overwhelming task of cleaning.

I can't tell you how good it felt to clean that oven to a sparkling newness. It became a tangible reminder to me that it is often the simplest things, that are right before me, that clean a mess.

It is the everyday baking soda and salt of right relationships, keeping short accounts, hugs and "i love yous" every morning and every night (and lotsa times in between), quiet times of recentering and prayers, apologizing for swift and hurtful words, bad attitudes.

It is the simple paper towels like beans and rice and home-baked bisquits. And a glass of red wine with my man, after the kids have nodded to sleep. These are the moments of saying "yes" to authentic and meaningful life and relationships, in the midst of stress and struggle. The moments we take to breathe in deeply, the all-encompassing love of God that surrounds us at every turn.

I am thankful for this morning, for the silent scrubbing that became a sort of spiritual redemption. I could feel God's love, cleaning what is caked in my own heart, as I settled in with the task at hand.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Exploring Heaven

Alley: "Mama, where is Annie's dog Jack? Where do dogs go when they die like Jack died?"

Mama: "Well, I believe that God has a special heaven for dogs, where they can be well cared for and at peace. What do you believe?"

Alley: "That's just what I think, too, Mama. Because dogs are the best. And God loves them so much. And God made them, so He wants them to be with him in heaven. And what about Smokey Bear? Is he in heaven, too? Cuz he died too and God loves Smokey Bear."

Mama: "Yes, there's a good chance Smokey Bear is right where Jack is."

**fast forward a few WEEKS**

On Tuesday, we were driving into Abbotsford for our MOPS group. On the way, we picked up an older friend named Rosina who helps with the childcare. While in the car, Alley started asking questions about her kitty cat, her 4-year-old granddaughter, what flowers she will plant in her garden this Spring.

All of a sudden she asked, "Rosina? Where is your husband?" Rosina replied that he had "passed on" a long time ago. Alley's eyes became huge and round. "You mean he died?!" And with a smile spreading slowly over her face, she said " that means he is in heaven with Jack and Smokey Bear!"

And yesterday, along this theme of death and heaven, Alley asked "Mama, when I go to heaven, can I open my eyes?"
I replied "Yes! You can open your eyes! And what do you think you will see?"
"Oh Mama! I will see God's eyes and nose! Can you and Daddy and Solomon open your eyes too?"
When I replied "yes", she begged me to call Bry on my cell phone to make sure he would open his eyes. When I put the phone down, she asked "Did he say Yes, Mama? Did he? Did he?!"

I have thought about this a few times since. It is so beautiful to me. Almost heartbreaking. And I realize that her childlike heart is able to grasp the hope of heaven. There is no hope in dying, if I don't believe I will have a chance to open my eyes on the other side. What do I hope to see?
This beautiful moment with Alethea (my child of truth) has carried me this week, as I go about the dailyness.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Something Else

I am glad to say that I am back on my feet. The haze of tonsillitis lifted on Saturday and I began to eat, to hug my kids, to be part of the family unit again. I tell you, I was on another planet for four days straight. whew! Let's just say that I am certainly grateful for antibiotics. I tend away from them, since we are such an overmedicated world right now. And in the hospital, there is no end to the hubbub about "super bugs" from "over use of antibiotics." But when you need them, YOU NEED THEM. yep. And I am glad glad for them.

Enough about that.

I was going through some old letters today. And I came across a beautiful poem from a dear and beautiful friend. It is called A Child is Something Else Again, and is written by an Israeli poet named Yehuda Amichai.

**A child is something else again. Wakes up

in the afternoon and in an instant he's full of words,

in an instant he's humming, in an instant warm,

instant light, instant darkness.

A child is Job. They've already placed their bets on him

but he doesn't know it. He scratches his body

for pleasure. Nothing hurts yet.

They're training him to be polite Job,

to say "Thank you" when the Lord has given

to say "You're Welcome" when the Lord has taken away.

A child is vengeance.

A child is a missile into the coming generations.

I launched him: I'm still trembling.

A child is something else again: on a rainy springday

glimpsing the Garden of Eden through the fence,

kissing him in his sleep,

hearing footsteps in the wet pine needles.

A child delivers you from death.

Child, Garden, Rain, Fate.**

And one more from a favorite, ee cummings:

--how fortunate are you and i,

whose home is timelessness: we who have wandered down

from fragrant mountains of eternal now

to frolic in such mysteries as birth

and death a day (or maybe even less).

I am here, grateful for the chance to "frolic in such mysteries" and to press in, knowing there is more. Abundance. It is the New Year once again

Friday, January 04, 2008

Under the Weather with Beautiful Films

This is a picture of my very cozy, especially-nice-when-I'm-sick slippers.

On New Year's Eve, I came down with something harsh. I was driving home after my second 12-hour shift at the maternity unit, and I suddenly felt feverish and really dizzy. We were scheduled to dress up for a party that night, but when I got home, I mumbled something about needing to stay back, and I crawled into bed.

The next day was even worse. I had the chills, a pounding headache, a really bad sore throat and a rattly, tight chest and hacky cough. What a mess! I laid in bed almost the entire day.

And on January 2nd, when I felt even worse, I pulled myself into see my doctor and was given the diagnosis of rip-roaring Tonsillitis and Sinusitis. Whew!

I have now been on Biaxin for two days and feel a slight improvement. I was lying in bed today, feeling very sick and sorry for myself. And I started to wonder about the term "under the weather." And it suddenly felt like a fitting thing to say. Especially as I gazed out at the heavy, grey winter sky. I DID feel "under the weather" in my spirit, just plain blah and depressed.

I don't want this post to be depressing, though. My intent is to talk about three beautiful films that we have watched while I am "under the weather".

The Black Stallion


A River Runs Through It

I have seen A River Runs Through It before, and I absolutely love it. Even watching it for the 3rd time was just as powerful for me. And it's one of my husband's favorites, so it was fun to watch it with him.

But the other two suprised me with beauty. My husband bought The Black Stallion for my daughter after Christmas. And I figured it would be more geared toward children. I found it meaningfully multi-layered and soul-filled, with a great deal of depth. And I loved the artistry between the young boy and the Stallion.

One scene in particular is astounding in it's grace and gentleness . They are alone on a beach, and the boy wants nothing more than to ride the stallion. He lures the horse into the waves, until they are both swimming, and then mounts him while they are weightless. The stallion surges forward out of the waves and onto the sand. The young boy hangs onto his wild mane and rides bareback along the shore. Breathtaking.

And Once is a beautiful, foreign film that takes place in Dublin. It is the story of two friends who meet, and help one another find their purpose in life. It is poignant and heartbreaking. Especially for anyone who loves to travel, it is a journey into another parallel place in time. And the soundtrack! Gorgeous.

So, I suppose being sick isn't ALL bad. Just kinda bad. sniffle.

I'll give an updated report when I am above the weather!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Christmas Events

We enjoyed a full and joyous Christmas season as a family. Alley was an angel in one Christmas pageant and a star in another. At the Christmas Eve pageant, where she played a star, she held up a "birthday card for Jesus" at the end. She was instructed to hold it open for all to see. When the moment came, without even thinking of what she was supposed to do, she showed it first to baby Jesus and then to the audience. It was a heartwarming moment for all.

We started a few new family traditions. On each Sunday during Advent, we joined friends for a meal, either at our place or theirs. And on Christmas Eve, we pulled our mattresses and a crib out to the living room and slept under the tree. It was so fun to fall asleep in one room together and to wake up together with the kids in their cozy pajamas. We each opened one gift on Christmas Eve and stockings early on Christmas morning. At 10, we walked across the street to my in-laws home for a brunch and the rest of the present-opening.

During the afternoon, we relaxed and watched "It's a Wonderful Life" and then traipsed back across the street for Christmas dinner at our home. It was a beautiful day as a family.

New Years was a different story! Soul-baby got the stomach flu and was going with gusto from both ends. And I came down with Tonsillitis and Sinusitis and have been in bed, flat-out-cold, for two days. What a way to start the year! But, I'm determined not to let it get me down, and Bry has helped by HELPING an incredible amount around the house and with the kids. And my mother-in-law made us dinner tonight. So, all in all, no complaints. Just a pounding head and throbbing throat and some whopping antibiotics to take on the 'morrow.