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Archive for June, 2012

I am so thankful for the father of my kids, and I have so many reasons to be thankful.

On Mother’s Day, I decided to start to create a list of the many things I appreciate my hubby, the father of my children.

He is …

1 – loves God
2 – loves me
3 – loves our three kids
4 – loves his parents
5 – works hard
6 – sacrifices for his family
7 – makes time for school events
8 – makes time for questions
9 – looks after our vehicles
10 – pays our bills
11 – loads the dishwasher
12 – cleans the kitchen after dinner
13 – answers the home phone
14 – is wise
15 – does not act before thinking
16 – sees the best in others
17 – values commitment
18 – values life
19 – hopes for the best
20 – deals with the pool … all of it!
21 – is here
22 – is different from me
23 – encourages
24 – is flexible when I need something
25 – is flexible when our kids need something
26 – says ‘yes’ more than ‘no’
27 – is a helper
28 – desires to improve our family’s life
29 – endures the beast 😉
30 – takes the kids out for a birthday breakfast
31 – he models sensitivity to others
32 – he made it possible for me to be home with our kids when they were young
33 – he understands when I need to get a break from people
34 – he can, and does, open jars for me
35 – he makes the kids school lunches

These are just some of the things that I am thankful for the father of my kids. Looking at the things that I am thankful for, makes life’s cup seem more than half full.

Happy Fathers Day, Hubby.

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Twenty-five years … can that really be possible?

Twenty-five years ago today I walked with my peers, down the aisle of our high school gymnasium to “Pomp and Circumstance,” wearing a burgundy cap and gown, smiling happily, thinking that this was the most exciting moment of my life. In my mind, life was about to begin, once that diploma was in my hand, and my cap was tossed in the air.

I graduated from a small rural school, in southern New Brunswick, along with fifty-eight of my classmates. Most of us got to school by bus. Kindergarten was not experienced by all, or even most of us, as kindergarten was still a private business.

Most of us started school in 1975.

We started school in the days of the ‘strap’, and graduated in the early days of the more emotionally feelings-based, psychological approach to discipline. We went to school in a time when you actually did not know if you would ‘grade’ until you saw your report card. We had mid-term exams in December, and finals in June. Our passing grade was not half way (50%), but 60%.

We dressed in bell bottoms, shoulder pads, miniskirts, turtle necks, neon colors, leg warmers, and Aviators.

We had wings, afros, and mullets. We parted our hair in the middle, to the side and had bangs. We used gel, mousse, Love’s Baby Soft and Brut.

We listened to disco, pop, country, heavy metal and classic rock.

The futures of many were to continue studies, but there were at least as many who were heading directly into the workforce. Since that night of anticipation of the future, we have had peers who have already passed into death.

As a group, we have had marriages and divorces, children and pets. There are those who have never moved from the village (yes, I grew up in a village … my own kids thought that villages were only part of fairy tales, and laugh loudly when the subject of my home ‘town’ comes up), and those who have lived around the world. We have worked in commerce, in business, in so many trades, in education, in health care, in marketing, in peacekeeping, in childcare and in our homes.

Many have done what they intended to do twenty-five years ago, and many have taken very divergent paths.

Our school motto, “esse quam videri” means “to be rather than to seem.” This sounds like a great motto for a high school, for I would hope that a young adult would leave school understanding that reality is better than imitation, that being yourself is better than being like everyone else.

As I am no expert in Latin, I checked it’s deeper meaning, and it’s origins. It would appear that it comes from a writing by Cicero. He was a wealthy Roman, in the last century of BC. He was a lawyer, a politician, an orator, a philosopher. Our school motto actually was part of a larger sentence in his writing “On Friendship”

“Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt

Which translates; “few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so.”

Maybe it is because I am old, or maybe it is because I work in a high school, or maybe it is because I am the mother of teens, but I have much greater appreciation for the entire text than for the three part motto twenty-five years later!

Virtue goes beyond being real. Virtue is moral or ethical excellence. It is not just being yourself, but it is being the best YOU, that you can be. It is not just being excellent in and of yourself, but so that you can impact those around you. It is not perfection, it is effort! Truly it is the work of blood, sweat and tears. It is not about being, it is about doing.

Twenty-five years later, I have learned a precious lesson. My life did not begin when I had the diploma in my hand and my cap tossed in the air … but every morning that I awake, with the opportunity to chose to be the best I can be (for others) … that is when life begins … again, and again, and again. It is a life that is new and fresh every morning.

To those who I share this anniversary of common place and time, my thoughts and fun memories are with you today. May we all live the next twenty-five knowing that life has neither begun nor ended yet.

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This is a series about a woman, roses on a park bench, and an amazing set of circumstances that bring her into a new future … one she never could have dreamed, would take her from sorrow to hope.
Each week there will be a new installment.

Finally, I had gotten all of the kids dropped off to school, and I was as free as a bird to spend the entire day as I desired.

I had it all planned. I would go to the coffee shop, order my most favorite, ‘happy’ drink (an Earl Grey Tea Latte). Then I would find a seat by window, and sit reading my novel, for as long as I desired.

I could feel my body relaxing, just from imagining how wonderful it would be!

I didn’t even feel guilty for this ‘unproductive’ me time. It had been months, no, years since I had any time to myself (unless you counted the few times that I would get groceries on my own).

Finally, ten years after having baby number one (also known as Alison), seven years after having baby number two (also known as Michael), and five years after having Suzanna, I was about to have a day to myself.

Today I took Suzanna to school for the first time. While other mothers and their children sniffed and sobbed, Suzanna did her best to convince me that I did not have to walk her into the classroom. I did though, not because I felt she needed me to, or that I needed to do so for myself, but because it seemed like the right thing to do. Really it was because I was worried what the other mothers and the teacher would think if I my little girl were to walk herself into class on the first day of kindergarten.

Ah, the old, “what would people think of me” conundrum. I wonder if we ever outgrow that guilt-laden way of thinking. I wonder, at what age do we begin to thing that way? Making our decisions based on what other people would think of us. I am sure it must be a learned way of thinking, and not something that we do innately.

For now, though, there was no guilt, no pressures, no stresses. It was just me and an entire day of freedom. I was almost giddy with anticipation.

Then, out of nowhere, the car ahead of me stopped abruptly. My brain and body went into automatic pilot, and my vehicle screeched to an immediate stop. I was sure I was mere millimeters from the vehicle in front of me, but was so thankful that the sound of crunching metal, that I had anticipated, never was made.

I peered to the left, and the right, and still could see no reason for the abrupt stop. So I rolled my window down, so as to lean out and see ahead of the line of waiting vehicles. It appeared to be an accident, at the intersection. There was a police cruiser, and vehicle parts in the intersection.

I moved my head back into my van, and as I did something to the left caught my eye.

Rose Part 1

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Last week I published a post called Tricks and Old Dogs. In it I wrote of my love of talking, and of a recent realization that when I felt as though I was not being listened to, I stopped talking, I stopped communicating. I also wrote of how I was planning on working on that personal response from a self-improvement context.

Since then I have encountered a certain passage in the Bible … twice, and I am starting to think that there is something in it for me.

The day after publishing that post, I read a post of a fellow blogger, which featured Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (he is a great writer and thinker, and his posts are worth checking out). The blogger focused on how the scripture emphasized the need and reliance for balance. That the reality of the seasons of the year, and of life required a concentration of the balance that they provide in our existence.

For instance seeds are planted in the spring, and the harvest is gathered in the autumn, because that is what makes for the best growth of plants. We can laugh anytime, but to laugh after a season of weeping makes the laughing all the sweeter.

Then, at our staff devotions, a teacher read the same scripture. This time, as it was being read, I ‘heard’ the message that was in it for me. Verse 7 states, “(there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:) a time to be silent and a time to speak.” When the words settled in my ears, I realized that maybe I had been silent for a reason that came, not from weakness, but from a holy, seasonal balance. Maybe this was my time to be silent?

When I came home I did my research. I discovered that the verse from Ecclesiastes was cross referenced to:
Amos 5:13, “therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times”
Job 34:29, “but if he remains silent, who can condemn him?”

Maybe, just maybe, my silence was not simply born out of weakness, nor the result of inappropriate responding to individuals or situations. Maybe, my tongue has been silenced because it is not my season to speak? Maybe, at this time, saying nothing is the healthiest, the most wise route to take? Maybe keeping quiet at this time is not about forfeiting my ability to express myself, but about taking the time to listen, and providing the opportunities for others to practice a season of speaking? Maybe, my silence is a holy protection, that I need to embrace, and not fight against?

I am still determined to learn through this experience. I just might try learning from the silence.

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Back to once upon a time land, and castles, and roads paved with gold, and pearly gates, and a king who rules justly and loves mercy. Ah …. I almost can dream myself right into the middle of it all!

Throughout the ‘kingdom’ verses in Matthew, Jesus uses children over and over again in his description of the kingdom of heaven. As with every teaching of Jesus, he did not use children as illustration by chance, but because of what they are, and because of what they are not.

Children are innocent, pure, powerless, uneducated. They are the least of society, because they contribute so little to society, from the perspective of power. In their state of powerlessness, they exemplify that the best (heaven) was created and intended for those who are the least deserving, the least powerful the least able to give anything back.

Last week I wrote about the kingdom when Jesus was asked who would be the greatest in the kingdom. Jesus replied that “whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:4-5).

But Jesus child talk didn’t end there.

 In the next verse (v. 6) he says, of children, “if anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Wow! I think he meant business. His statement strongly says that he is serious about the value of children.

Jesus then goes on (v. 10-14) to compare a wandering sheep to “one of these little ones.” He compares God to a shepherd who, if one sheep was lost, would leave the others to go in search for the lost one. This would have been unbelievable to the people listening, because a sheep was valuable to a shepherd’s livelihood, a child was … just a child.

With all of this kid talk, people started to bring their children to Jesus, so that he could place his hands on their head, to pray for and bless them (Matthew 19:13-15). This was really getting on the nerves of the disciples, who wanted the kids to head to the nursery so that the important people … like them, could be close to, and hear Jesus as he taught. But Jesus was quick and decisive in his response, “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

There it was. Jesus wanted so badly for them, and for us, to understand, that power in the kingdom of heaven came from a different source than it did/does on Earth. In the kingdom of heaven, the Father provides membership to those who, like children, have no knowledge of, and no desire to seek power.

Later on in Matthew 25:34, Jesus speaks of the King, “come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Those who he is speaking to are those who, like children, the kingdom of heaven was created for. That is my kind of kingdom!

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You can’t teach an old dog a new trick, or so the saying goes.

I like to talk. This goes back as far as my school years, when my parents would go to the dreaded parent teacher conferences, and the one thing that all of my teachers said of me was, “she really likes to talk” (hey, at least I was consistent).

I love to chat it up with cashiers, moms with little kids, and elderly ladies. Oh, elderly ladies are the best! They are funny, full of information, and (big bonus) they say stuff to you like, “when I was young like you,” or “you are still so young,” or “my what beautiful skin you have.”

I have no problems with communicating via email or text (but I do hate the telephone). When there is something that I need to communicate with hubby, the kids, a friend, family, or a co-worker I want to be across from them and feel the conversation, so that I hear not just their words, but what their eyes are communicating too.

All of that communicating is great, but I have been learning something about myself, and my communication habits over the past couple of years. I have learned that when I am speaking to someone who does not leave me feeling listened to I keep quiet, I stop talking.

Perhaps this started as a means of avoidance. Perhaps it was a wordless way of communicating. Perhaps it was a means of keeping the peace.

If it started as avoidance or wordless communication, then what I am really trying to avoid is conflict, because I am feeling powerless in a particular relationship.

If this started as a means of keeping the peace, it is a farce! If that ‘other’ person(s) could only hear what is going on in my mind while I am feeling ignored and not listened to!

Keeping quiet, however that started, can forfeit ones ability to express an opinion. Eventually, one might begin to believe that their thoughts are not important, so why bother trying?

Why or how this began, I do not know. What I do know, though, is that it is time for me to grow out of this stage I am stuck in.

This ‘old dog’ may not be so good at tricks, but I am determined to learn a new skill, by undoing a bad habit … I sure hope the treats are chocolate!

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This is a series about a woman, roses on a park bench, and an amazing set of circumstances that bring her into a new future … one she never could have dreamed, would take her from sorrow to hope.
Each week there will be a new installment.

Prelude

Walking to the bench, the bench I had passed so many times, was like that magical experience of walking the flower lined aisle at my wedding, with my eyes filled with contained tears. I was walking deliberately, intentionally, from the past, and into a new future, full of dreams and hopes like a bride, eager to sign the marriage covenant with the one she loves.

As I lay the bouquet on the bench, and the tears spilled onto my cheeks, a sense of beginning and of completion took over. All of the pieces of my life were flashing before me. I could see how interwoven each and every step of my life was.

I felt as though by laying these roses on the bench, I was saying goodbye and hello. I felt as though my action, although small, tied me to the past and to the future at the same time.

My future … it was not long ago that I felt I had no future. It was just days before when death looked more hopeful than life itself. It was just days before when a death brought me back to life. No, not back to life, it was as if I was introduced to life for the first time.

Days ago, I had not dreamed that I would, that I could find such value and satisfaction from such a simple act. Days ago death was all I could see.

There is just no way that anyone could ever have constructed the details of so many things of the past number of years, of my whole life, to bring me to this point. In the most perfect of timing, revelations of my past were placed into my hands, and they allowed me to open the door to my future. It was all such impossibility that these circumstances were laid out in front of my, in a way that would bring me full circle.

The questions that I had stopped asking, but were always with me, were answered. The pieces of my life had come together in the most beautiful bouquet of completion. My life, my whole life, had come together, like seeds and plants of a variety of species, planted together in a garden designed by a master

There is only one way for all of these pieces to come together in the way they had, and that way was so out of my control, and yet in complete control of my entire life, all this time.

I took a deep breath, stood back to look at those roses on the bench, tears flowing steadily.

From somewhere deep inside of me, a song emerged on my tongue;

“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses …”

Rose Part 2

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I am archaic, but I am thankful that I am an archaic, aging woman, and not an archaic, aging man.

Recently I have encountered a number of men, who are of the age of fifty’ish, who are … negative, opinionated, stubborn and … grumpy! There have been enough of them that I have started to view every man who appears to be about that age, with the belief that he needs to be avoided at all costs.

In each of the situations of grumpy men, there would appear to be no outward reason for their poor attitudes.

They all have jobs, and solid, secure jobs at that. They would all appear to have healthy, intact, families. They would all appear to have, what most of us would deem, a good life.

I am not sure that they are recognizing their ‘good life’ as good.

Every time that I have encountered one of these ‘gentlemen’ I walk (quickly) away thinking, is there something horrible going on in their life that I know nothing of, or are they simply focusing so much on what they are missing out on that they cannot see what they have?

Now these guys who I am thinking of are not simply guys who are having an ‘off’ day. They are grumpy on a consistent, regular basis. If they were a Sesame Street character they would all be Oscar the Grouch.

John Barrymore said that “a man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” Maybe this is what has happened to these men, and the women of equal grumpiness. Maybe they are entering the second half of life burdened with the regrets of things they did, or did not do, in the first half.

Or maybe, T.S. Eliot’s belief is true, “I don’t believe one grows older.  I think that what happens early on in life is that at a certain age one stands still and stagnates.” If this is the reality for the grumpy, unhappy, negative, hopeless men and women in our lives, that is a most heartbreaking thing. To have the gift of life in our hands (our feet, our brain, our heart).

It makes me want to live differently. It makes me want to live with hope, continue to dream, and greet each day as the gift that it is, with all of the opportunities and possibilities that were there twenty years ago. The blessing of being ‘middle aged’ is that I can awaken each day with the same possibilities as when I was younger, but now I do so with the added benefit of experience and wisdom (well, experience at least 😉 ).

“They will bear fruit even when old and gray;
they will remain lush and fresh”
Psalm 92:14

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Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away …

So starts a typical fairy tale, in a typical fairy tale way. It’s predictable beginning leads into the duress of a princess, and the lengths that the prince will go to save her, and to save the kingdom from a dark and evil force. The ending is always the same … and they all lived happily ever after.

Now THAT sounds like my kind of kingdom … well, except for the dark and evil force bit.

Life, real life, is not like a fairly tale. In our real lives we are not all princes and princesses. In real life we are the common folk of the kingdom. We do the work, through blood, sweat and tears, so that the royal family might live, not as they deserve, but as part of their blessing from being in the right bloodline.

Over the past year I have been learning about the kingdom.

It all started with a simple question, one that all in that kingdom (society) at that time would have been able to answer. This question came from ones who knew the answer, but … they asked anyway … maybe they thought that his sovereign had a different perspective from the rest in the kingdom?

The question was, “who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom (of heaven)?”

Any of us who grew up on fairy tales could answer that one! Why the king of the kingdom is of course the greatest.

This man with royal blood flowing through his human veins flipped the kingdom on it’s royal backside. He brings a child into the middle of this group of royal watchers. In this kingdom, a child was … JUST a child (kind of like, for my hubby, the beast is JUST a dog). A child, in the time of this tale, would have no rights, no possessions … a child WAS a possession.

So, this robe wearing man said:

“I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.”

I am thinking that those kingdom quizzers were wishing that they had just stuck to simple questions at this point. Or maybe, they thought that they had asked a simple question?

Their royal leader had just turned their kingdom (societal) norms on their backsides! How could a grown man (woman) return to childhood? Who would want to? But, if they did not, they would be stuck on the outskirts of the kingdom, with the drawbridge forever pulled up.

This royal leader, Jesus, turned the kingdom, the world, up-side-down with his redevelopment plan of the kingdom. The blueprints he was drawing were nothing like the originals … he had gone back to square one.

And that is what He, the king who sits on the throne, asks of us … to allow ourselves to be re-created, re-fashioned, re-born into a new creation. He has fought the dark and evil forces that have lulled us into a lifetime of dreamless sleep. Now, we are invited to be awakened by the kiss of the king, into a life as heirs of the kingdom.

We become the princes and princesses of the fairy tale. And, after a lifetime of loving, and working, and struggling, and stress, and pressures, and heartaches … we will eventually live,

happily ever after.

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Until I watched the 2002 movie, “A Walk to Remember”, I had no knowledge of people making lists of what they hoped to do before they die. Until the 2007 movie, “The Bucket List”, I had no understanding of what a bucket list was.

Since seeing those hilarious, sorrow filled, thought provoking movies, thoughts of what do I want to do before I die have ebbed and flowed in my mind.

Pondering what we want to do before we die first requires that we admit that we will, one day, leave this life that we know. That can, in itself, be a sobering thought. I believe it was pastor and sociologist Tony Campolo who said, “I don’t want to die, I like it here.”

Last year I happened to have gotten a ‘like’ from a woman who is also a blogger. When I checked out her blog I discovered that Ms. Lesley Carter had taught high school in Riverview, New Brunswick … just a hop, skip and a jump up the mighty Petitcodiac River from where I grew up. This meant that we are almost related. She has a brilliant blog called Bucket List Publications which accepts donations to a fund, as well as applications to ‘win’ the means to fulfill a bucket list dream. Lesley works along with her hubby, Darren, to choose at least one lucky winner each month. Her blog writing has inspired me, from my first reads, and the dream fulfilling that they are doing is spectacular.

Bucket List Publications says that this quote, by Eleanor Roosevelt, describes their goals perfectly, “the purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.”

Just this weekend, my eldest daughter introduced me to “the Buried Life” television program. Four blogger guys (Ben, Dave, Duncan and Jonnie … Canadians and Americans) who all attended university together in Victoria, B.C. In 2006 they set off across North America to fulfill their list of one hundred things to do before you die. Then, as each item was crossed off, they would then, in turn, assist a total stranger fulfill one thing that they have always wished they could one day do.

(If you wanna check out this show go to mtv and watch the episode where they help deliver a baby … so worth the watch)

They make the ridiculous fit like a glove with the series, the meaningful the somber. They leave you with the question, “what do you want to do before you die.”

I wonder, what do I want to do before I die?

In so many ways, I have done all that I ever wanted to do, already. But, I might only be half way through this life I have been given, and I feel a need to seek out more from this life than I have already done, and tasted, and seen, and experienced … and given.

The Buried Life guys got their name from a poem written over one hundred and fifty years ago, by Matthew Arnold. Just a small sampling follows :

“But often, in the world’s most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us–to know
Whence our lives come and where they go …
… And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose,
And the sea where it goes. ”

What do you want to do, before you die?

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