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.